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c. i o 24- c. n 9 8 Part I 



The New Cambridge Medieval History 

The fourth volume of the New Cambridge Medieval History covers the 
eleventh and twelfth centuries, which comprised perhaps the most dy- 
namic period in the European middle ages. This is a history of Europe, 
but the continent is interpreted widely to include the Near East and 
North Africa as well. The volume is divided into two parts of which 
this, the first, deals with themes, ecclesiastical and secular, and major 
developments in an age marked by the expansion of population, agri- 
culture, trade, towns and the frontiers of western society; by a radical 
reform of the structure and institutions of the western church, and 
by fundamental changes in relationships with the eastern churches, 
Byzantium, Islam and the Jews; by the appearance of new kingdoms 
and states, and by the development of crusades, knighthood and law, 
Latin and vernacular literature, Romanesque and Gothic art and ar- 
chitecture, heresies and the scholastic movement. 

Cambridge Histories Online © Cambridge University Press, 2008 

The New Cambridge Medieval History 


David Abulafia Rosamond McKitterick 
Martin Brett Edward Powell 
Simon Keynes Jonathan Shepard 
Peter Linehan Peter Spufford 

Volume iv c. 1024 -c. 1198 
Part 1 

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Volume iv c. 1024-c. 1198 
Part 1 



Professor of Medieval History 
University of Sheffield 



Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History, 
University of Cambridge 



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Information on this title: www.cambridge.0rg/9780521414104 

© Cambridge University Press 2004 

This book is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception 
and to the provisionsof relevant collective licensing agreements, 
no reproduction of any part may take place without 
the written permission of Cambridge University Press. 

First published 2004 
Reprinted 2006 

Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge 

A. catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library 

Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data 

ISBN- 1 3 978-0-521-41410-4 paperback 
ISBN- 10 0-521 -41 41 0-5 hardback 

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs 
for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this book, and does not guarantee 
that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate. 

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List of plates page ix 

List of maps xiii 

List of contributors xiv 

Preface xvii 

Acknowledgements xviii 

List of abbreviations xix 

1 Introduction i 


2 The rural economy and demographic growth 11 


3 Towns and the growth of trade 47 


4 Government and community 86 


5 The development of law 113 


6 Knightly society 148 


7 War, peace and the Christian order 185 


8 The structure of the church, 1024-1073 229 



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9 Reform and the church, 1073-1122 268 


10 Religious communities, 1024— 1215 335 


11 The institutions of the church, 1073-1216 368 


12 Thought and learning 461 


13 Religion and the laity 499 


14 The crusades, 1095-1198 534 


15 The eastern churches 564 


16 Muslim Spain and Portugal: al-Andalus and its neighbours 599 


17 The Jews in Europe and the Mediterranean basin 623 


18 Latin and vernacular literature 658 


19 Architecture and the visual arts 693 


List of primary sources 732 

Bibliography of secondary works arranged by chapter 758 

Index 865 

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Episcopal throne in the apse of S. Maria in Cosmedin, Rome, founded in the 
sixth century and restored in 1120. Photo: Scala, Florence. 

between pages 170 and 171 

1 Kirby Bellars, Leicestershire: windmill mounds amidst 
ridge-and-furrow. © Cambridge University Collection of 
Air Photographs. 

2 New Buckenham, Norfolk: motte and bailey castle 
mound, 1150s, and the twelfth-century new town. 

© Crown copyright, Cambridge University Collection. 

3 Old Sarum, Salisbury, Wiltshire. © Crown copyright. 

National Monuments Record. 

4 Hedingham Castle, Essex. © English Heritage, National 
Monuments Record. 

5 Orford Castle, Suffolk. © English Heritage, National 
Monuments Record. 

6 Chateau Gaillard, Les Andelys, Eure, France, late twelfth 
century. Photo Alain Longchampt © Centre des 
monuments nationaux, Paris. 

7 The east end of Speyer cathedral, late eleventh century. 

Bildarchiv Foto Marburg. 

8 Almohad city wall and the Lion Gate, Seville. Instituto 
Andaluz del Patrimonio Historico, Fondo Grafico, Seville. 

9 Fortified walls of the Alcazar, Jerez de la Frontera. 

Instituto Andaluz del Patrimonio Historico, Fondo 
Grafico, Seville. 

10 The Giralda Tower, Seville. Instituto Andaluz del 
Patrimonio Historico, Fondo Grafico, Seville. 


Cambridge Histories Online © Cambridge University Press, 2008 

x List of plates 

11 The abbey of St Benoit-sur-Loire, Fleury, France. Photo 
Jean Feuillie © Centre des monuments nationaux, Paris. 

12 The abbey of Cluny, France, showing the ruined south 
transept. Photo Alain Longchampt © Centre des 
monuments nationaux, Paris. 

13 The abbey of Vezelay, nave interior looking east. Photo 
Alain Longchampt © Centre des monuments nationaux, Paris. 

14 The abbey of St Stephen, Caen, nave interior looking 
east. Photo Jean Feuillie © Centre des monuments 
nationaux, Paris. 

15 Durham cathedral, choir and chancel looking east. 

© English Heritage, National Monuments Record. 

16 The abbey of Fontenay, c. 1140, nave interior looking east. 

Photo Jean Feuillie © Centre des monuments nationaux, Paris. 

17 The ruins of Roche abbey, South Yorkshire. © English 
Heritage, National Monuments Record. 

18 The cathedral of Cefalfi, Sicily, apse mosaic c. 1143. 

© Fratelli Alinari, Florence. 

19 Campo Santo, Pisa, showing the baptistery, cathedral 
and campanile. © Fratelli Alinari, Florence. 

20 Chartres cathedral, west fafade. Photo Etienne Revault 
© Centre des monuments nationaux, Paris. 

21 Laon cathedral, nave interior, last quarter of the twelfth 
century. Photo Jean Feuillie © Centre des monuments 
nationaux, Paris. 

22 The Byzantine emperor Basil II, the ‘Bulgarslayer’. 
Eleventh-century Greek Psalterium, Venice, Biblioteca 
Marciana (MS Gr. 17, f. 3r). 

23 The gospels of Henry the Lion, c . 1188, showing the 
spiritual coronation of Henry and Matilda, observed by 
saints and relatives. © Herzog August Bibliothek, 

Wolfenbiittel (MS Guelf. 105 Noviss. 2, f. 171V). 

24 Pope Innocent II opposes the revival of the Roman 

senate. Friedrich-Schiller-Universitat, Jena (MS Bos. q. 6, f. 9iv). 

25 Sub umbris arborum : Cistercian monks engaged in labour, 
and the first four Cistercian abbots. By permission of the 
Syndics of Cambridge University Library (MS Mm. 5. 31). 

26 Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, instructing monks in his 
first sermon on the Song of Songs. Biblioteca Universitaria 
di Padova (MS 687). 

Cambridge Histories Online © Cambridge University Press, 2008 

List of plates 

27 Philosophy, the seven liberal arts and the poets, depicted 
in an edition of Hortus deliciarum, c. 1175-85 by Herrad, 
abbess of Landsberg (or Hohenburg) in Alsace. 

28 Hugh of St Victor, depicted in a copy of his Didascalicon 
in 1176-77. © Leiden Universiteitsbibliotheek (MS Vulc. 

46. f. i3or). 

29 Psalms with the Glossa ordinaria. By permission of the 
Houghton Library, Harvard University (MS Typ 260, ff. 

30 Peter Lombard, Commentary on the Psalms. Oxford, 

Bodleian Library (MS Auct. D. 2. 8., f. i05r). 

31 Colophon page of a Bible written by a Jewish scribe in 
England in 1189. Valmadonnna Trust Library (MS 
Sassoon 282, p. 482). 

32 Gratian of Bologna, Decretum. Biblioteca Nazionale 
Centrale, Florence (MS Conv. Soppr. A. I. 402, f. 23O. 

33 The weighing of souls, tympanum sculpture c. 1125 by 
Gislebertus of Autun, Autun cathedral. Archives 
historiques © Centre des monuments nationaux, Paris. 

34 The abbey of Cluny, ambulatory capital representing the 
first of eight tones of church music, c. 1095. Photo Alain 
Longchampt © Centre des monuments nationaux, Paris. 

35 Eve, c. 1125, from the lintel of the north portal of Autun 
cathedral by Gislebertus of Autun. Archives historiques © 
Centre des monuments nationaux, Paris. 

36 Apse mosaic c. 1020 of the Virgin and Child in the 
church of the Katholikon, Hosios Loukas, Greece. © 

Sonia Halliday Photographs. 

37 The crown of Constantine IX: the three central plaques 
show the emperor, and the empresses Zoe and Theodora. 

By permission of the Hungarian National Museum, Budapest. 

38 The Bayeux Tapestry, eleventh century: Harold, king of 
the English, receives the orb and sceptre with the blessing 
of Archbishop Stigand. By permission of the city of Bayeux. 

39 The Bayeux Tapestry, eleventh century: the English flee 
from the battle of Hastings. By permission of the city of 

40 Drawing of the apotheosis of the popes of the reform 
(1061— 1119) from a fresco originally in St. Nicholas in the 
Lateran, Rome. By permission of the British Library, London. 

Cambridge Histories Online © Cambridge University Press, 2008 

xii List of plates 

41 The coronation of King Roger II of Sicily, mosaic in the 
church of S. Maria dell’Ammiraglio (the Martorana), 
Palermo. © Fratelli Alinari, Florence. 

42 The coronation cloak of King Roger II of Sicily, now in 
the treasury of the Holy Roman Empire, Vienna. 

43 Suger, Abbot of St Denis, depicted in a window of the 
abbey church of the mid-twelfth century. Photo Pascal 
Lemaitre © Centre des monuments nationaux, Paris. 

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1 Towns of Europe and the Mediterranean region 85 

2 Asia Minor, Syria and the crusades 535 

3 The Christian churches of the east 565 

4 Muslim Spain and Portugal 600 

5 Art and architecture 694 


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Robert chazan: Scheuer Professor of Jewish History, Skirball Department 
of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, New York University 

Giles constable: Emeritus Professor in the Institute for Advanced Study, 
Princeton, New Jersey, and Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy 

h. e. j. cowdrey: Emeritus Fellow ofStEdmund Hall, Oxford, and Fellow 
of the British Academy 

jean flori: Director of Research in the Centre National de la Recherche 
Scientifique and in the Centre d’Etudes Superieures de Civilisation Medievale, 

Robert fossier: Professor in the Centre de Recherche sur l’Histoire de 
l’Occident Medieval in the University of Paris I, Pantheon-Sorbonne 

Bernard Hamilton: Emeritus Professor of Crusading History, University 
of Nottingham 

ernst-dieter hehl: Professor in the Akademie der Wissenschaften und 
der Literatur, Mainz 

derek keene: Leverhulme Professor of Comparative Metropolitan History, 
Centre for Metropolitan History, Institute of Historical Research, University 
of London 

hugh Kennedy: Professor of Middle Eastern History, University of St An- 

peter kidson: Emeritus Professor, The Courtauld Institute, University of 

peter landau: Professor in the Leopold- Wenger-Institut fiir Rechts- 
geschichte in the University of Munich and Member of the Bavarian Academy 
of Sciences 


Cambridge Histories Online © Cambridge University Press, 2008 

List of contributors 


david luscombe: Professor of Medieval History, University of Sheffield, 
and Fellow of the British Academy 

susan Reynolds: Senior Fellow of the Institute of Historical Research, 
London, Emeritus Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, and Fellow of the 
British Academy 

jean richard: Emeritus Professor, University of Dijon and Membre de 
l’lnstitut de France, Academie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, Paris 
Jonathan riley-smith: Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History and 
Fellow of Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge 

i. s. robinson: Associate Professor of Medieval History, Trinity College, 

jan ziolkowski: Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Medieval Latin, 
Harvard University 

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To all the contributors to both parts of this volume the editors extend their 
warmest thanks for their co-operation, patience and considerable efforts. No 
collaborative venture is free of collective risk, and volume iv of The New 
Cambridge Medieval History - the largest volume in the series - has been no 
exception: more than ten years have passed in its compilation. 

In Part i, of those scholars originally planning to contribute, five were unable 
to deliver. We are exceptionally grateful to the distinguished historians who 
stepped forward and wrote chapters for us in their place. 

In Part 2 the fluctuations and the obstacles which we encountered were 
more problematic. Of those scholars originally planning to contribute three 
died before beginning to write, and five others were unable to deliver. We are 
similarly and exceptionally grateful to the distinguished historians who also 
stepped forward and wrote chapters for us in their place and at short notice. 
We have also to express our regrets at the more recent deaths of Giovanni 
Tabacco and of Tom Keefe who wrote his contribution while terminally ill. 




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We have many debts to acknowledge with gratitude in the course of the prepa- 
ration of this volume. Expertise has been generously provided by copy-editors, 
translators, secretaries, cartographers, illustrationists, typesetters and others. 
Our copy-editors - Frances Brown and Linda Randall - have given invaluable 
help as have our indexer - Auriol Griffith-Jones - and our team of translators 
which has included Jean Birrell, Monika Coghlan, Caroline Stone and Mar- 
tin Thom among others. Pat Holland in the University of Sheffield has given 
unstinting secretarial assistance. To William Davies of Cambridge University 
Press we express our very special gratitude for support at every stage. The ed- 
itors have reason too to thank each other for a most fruitful and agreeable 
partnership. But our greatest thanks by far go to all who have written in this 




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Acta Sanctorum, ed. J. Bollandus, G. Henschenius 
et al., i-, Antwerp, etc. (1643-) 


Analecta Bollandiana 

ad a. 

ad annum 

Annales ESC 

Annales: Economies, Societes, Civilisations 1- (Paris, 


Bollettino dell’Istituto Storico Italiano per il Medio Evo 
e Archivio Muratoriano 1- (1886-) 


Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France, ed. 
M. Bouquet et al . , 24 vols. (Paris, 1738-1904) 


capitulum, canon 


Corpus Christianorum, Continuatio Mediaeualis, 
1- (Turnhout, 1966-) 


Corpus Consuetudinum Monasticarum, ed. K. 
Hallinger 1- (Siegburg, 1963- ) 


Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, 1- (Turnhout, 
19 52-) 


Conciliorum oecumenicorum decreta, ed. J. 
Alberigo, J. A. Dossetti et al., 3rd edn (Bologna, 




Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, 


Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 
(Vienna, 1866-) 

Councils and Synods 

Councils and Synods with Other Documents Relating 
to the English Church, vol. 1, ed. D. Whitelock, M. 
Brett and C. N. L. Brooke (Oxford, 1981); vol. 11, 
ed. E M. Powicke and C. R. Cheney (Oxford, 1964) 


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List of abbreviations 





















Epp. sel. 




Deutsches Archiv fur Erforschung des Mittelalters, 


Economic History Review 
English Historical Review, i- (1886-) 
epistola / epistolae 

Gallia Christiana, 1- (1716-); Gallia Christiana No- 
vissima, 1- (1899-) 

Historisches Jahrbuch 1- (1880-) 

Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 1- (1950-) 

Regesta Pontificum Romanorum ab condita Ecclesia 
ad annum post Christum natum MCXCVIII, ed. P. 
Jaffe, 2nd edn rev. W. Wattenbach, 2 vols., contribu- 
tors: P. Ewald, F. Kaltenbrunner and S. Loewenfeld, 
(Leipzig, 1885-8) 

G. D. Mansi etc., Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et 
amplissima collectio, 55 vols. (Florence, Venice, Paris, 
Arnhem and Leipzig, 1759-1962) 

Miscellanea del Centro di Studi Medioevali 
Monumenta Germaniae Historica 
See Epistolae 
1- (1893-) 

Constitutiones et acta publica imperatorum et regum 
1— (1S93— > 

Heinrici III. Diplomata, ed. H. Bresslau and P. Kehr 
in MGH Diplomata regum et imperatorum Germa- 
niae v (1926-31) 

Heinrici IV Diplomata, ed. D. von Gladiss and A. 
Gawlik, 3 parts (1941-78) 

Diplomata regum et imperatorum Germaniae 


Die Briefe der deutschen Kaiserzeit 1- (1949-) 
Epistolae (in quarto), 8 vols. (1887-1939) 

Epistolae selectae 1- (1916-) 

Libelli de lite imperatorum et pontificum saeculis XL. 
etXLI. conscripti 1- (1891-) 

Scriptores 1- (1826-) 

Scriptores Rerum Germanicarum in usum scholarum 
separatim editi 1- (1871-) 

Scriptores Rerum Germanicarum, Nova series 
1- (1922-) 

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R e g. 

RHC Occ. 







List of abbreviations xxi 

Mitteilungen des Instituts fur Osterreichische 
Geschichtsforschung, i- (1880-) 

L. A. Muratori, Rerum Italicarum scriptores, 25 vols. 
(Milan, 1723-51); new edn, G. Carducci etal. (Citti 
di Castello and Bologna, 1900-) 

Proceedings of the British Academy, 1- (1903-) 
Patrologiae cursus completus, Series Graeca, ed. J. P. 
Migne, 161 vols. (Paris, 1857-66) 

Patrologiae cursus completus. Series Latina, ed. J. P. 
Migne, 221 vols. (Paris, 1844-64) 

A. Potthast, Regesta pontificum Romanorum inde ab 
anno post Christum natum MCXCVIII ad annum 
MCCCIV 1 (Berlin, 1874) 

Papsturkunden in England, ed. W. Holtzmann, 3 
vols., Abhandlungen der Gesellschaft der Wis- 
senschaften in Gottingen, phil.-hist. Klasse (Berlin 
and Gottingen), 1 = neue Folge xxv (1930-1); 11 = 
3. Folge xiv-xv (1935-6); hi = 3. Folge xxxm (1952) 
Quellen und Forschungen aus Italienischen Archiven 
und Bibliotheken 1- (1897-) 

Revue Benedictine 

Royal Commission for Fiistorical Monuments in 



Recueil des historiens des croisades. Historiens occiden- 
taux, 5 vols. Academie des Inscriptions et Belles- 
Lettres (Paris, 1844-95) 

Rolls Series (Rerum Britannicarum medii aevi 

Studi Gregoriani 

Sancti Bernardi opera, ed. J. Leclercq with C. H. 
Talbot and H. M. Rochais, 8 vols., Rome (1957-77) 
sub voce 

Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 
Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung fur Rechtsgeschichte, 
Germanistische Abteilung 

Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung fur Rechtsgeschichte, 
Kanonistische Abteilung 

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David Luscombe and Jonathan Riley-Smith 

taken together, the eleventh and twelfth centuries are a unique fulcrum in 
the development of the medieval world. The relations between Latin Chris- 
tendom, the Scandinavian world, the Byzantine empire and the world of Islam 
underwent immense and sometimes conclusive changes in this period, and 
the development of Europe, let alone of western Europe, cannot be studied in 
isolation from that of her neighbours with whom there was increasing inter- 
action. Throughout this volume we have tried to take a broad view of what 
mattered in the relationships not only between western and eastern Europe, 
but also between Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. 

In order to attempt to account for the comprehensive changes and growth 
that took place over this long period, differing kinds of discussions and nu- 
merous chapters are required. This fourth volume of the the New Cambridge 
Medieval History has two parts which are each of a length comparable with 
the other volumes in this series. They are complementary to each other rather 
than sequential: Part i focuses mainly on themes - themes in economic, so- 
cial, governmental, ecclesiastical and cultural history - while Part 2 gives more 
attention to government on a territorial or institutional basis. 

In 1025, the year of the death of the emperor Basil II, Byzantium was at the 
height of its power and had achieved its greatest territorial extent. Its empire 
stretched from the Adriatic to the Caucasus, from the south of the Peloponnese 
to the Gulf of Finland. Eastern Europe was linked to northern Europe by a 
network of links in which the Vikings played a great part. The career of Harald 
Hardrada of Norway illustrates the situation vividly: he and his warriors fought 
for St Olaf, king of Norway, fought in the army ofjaroslav, ruler of Kiev, served 
three Byzantine emperors in the Varangian guard and campaigned in Asia 
Minor and Sicily. Harald married Jaroslav’s daughter, became king of Norway, 
and died in the battle of Stamford Bridge near York in 1066, having attempted 
to conquer England. But before the end of the century Byzantium was faced 
by immense dangers, including disasters in the Balkans, defeats at the hands 


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of the Turks in Asia Minor and the loss of lands in the south of Italy; and in 
the north of Europe Scandinavia’s ascendancy over her neighbours in war and 
trade had come to an end. 

Most of western Europe in the earlier part of this period was distinctly 
backward in comparison with parts of North Africa and the Middle East. 
There was far less commercial activity and far less urban life in the west, 
whereas there was vigorous trade in the eleventh century between the Arabs 
who lived in Spain, Tunisia, Sicily and Egypt. Cairo and Constantinople had 
far larger populations than any city in the west. In eleventh-century Italy there 
was repeated and widespread disintegration and dissolution of dynastic powers, 
of counties and marches. In their place local protection was provided by the 
military forces of bishops, monasteries, communities of canons or owners of 
lands. But in many ways this was to cease to be the position by the twelfth 
century. The growth of towns and city-states was conspicuous in northern Italy. 
In Flanders and the Rhineland also, urban growth was strong. It was stimulated 
by a dramatic growth of population, increased agricultural productivity, the 
cultivation of new land, the formation of new villages, the development of 
manufacture, and the growth of trade both within and beyond Europe. Of 
course, the pace and scale of these developments varied considerably in time 
and place, and peripheral regions such as Scotland and Ireland, Hungary and 
Lithuania, were not urbanised so much. To explain the different speeds of 
economic advance is an elusive task since it touches upon the shared but 
hidden aspirations of families and the workings of slow climatic amelioration 
as well as upon the fixed facts of geography. The consequences of economic 
growth, however, extended beyond western Europe and had an immeasurable 
impact upon relationships with neighbouring civilisations. 

In the Baltic area, Scandinavian trade with Russia came to be eclipsed by the 
rise of trade organised from Germany and Flanders. With the Norman conquest 
of England came the perception of a new military and commercial superiority 
enjoyed in a new and highly entrepreneurial Anglo-Norman ‘empire’ which 
gained domination in Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Such an aggressive and 
developmental mentality was commonly to be found in north-west Europe, 
where lands were reclaimed from the sea or from forests, settlers were invited to 
work on them, and new towns were founded, castles built and trade promoted. 
Similarly, in the Mediterranean world Italian coastal cities such as Pisa, Genoa 
and Venice fought for commercial markets both in Byzantium and in Muslim 
countries. Muslim rulers were forced out of Sardinia and the Balearic islands 
and suffered setbacks in North Africa. Normans were prominent in ending 
Muslim and Greek rule in Sicily and south Italy. The great expansion of Leon- 
Castile after the fall of Toledo in 1085 facilitated further military conquests in 
Muslim Spain as well as migration, colonisation and settlement. Italian traders 

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benefited greatly from the achievements of the crusaders in gaining control of 
the coastal towns in the Holy Land from the end of the eleventh century. Trade 
between the north and the south of Europe also developed on a considerable 
scale, especially in the exchange of woollen and linen goods. Maritime traffic 
in the Bay of Biscay also developed. Fairs grew up at which long-distance 
merchants gathered. Within towns, traders came to dominate government; 
communes and guilds were formed. 

Governmentally, the period is broadly one of progress within western Europe 
in the sense that many lordships and kingdoms, despite setbacks and shifts, 
grew together in solidarity and developed a stronger sense of community. 
There is abundant evidence of conflicts and of abuses of power by despotic 
lords, but even strife and despotism were set within a framework in which there 
was also understanding of customs, linguistic identities and liberties. In rural 
societies peasants and serfs, although subordinate, did not lack rights. Castles 
ensured military domination by lords but also provided civil administration. 
Urban communes also promoted such solidarity with the creation of guilds 
and fraternities. Royal government in France and England was immeasurably 
stronger at the end of the period than it had been at the beginning of the 
eleventh century, but in Germany the position of the monarchy was more 
ambiguous and complex. 

Legal developments mirror the changes that took place in every sphere of 
government. Historians have traced these developments in the light of a grow- 
ing trend to supplement oral traditions and unwritten customs with written, 
and with new, legislation. An example is the phasing out in northern Europe, 
slowly and only by the end of the period, of trials by ordeal in favour of ra- 
tional procedures for evaluating evidence. Written laws were no novelty, but 
the making, the imposition and the interpretation of new, written laws — in 
the form of statutes, assizes and constitutions - increasingly required trained 
officials. Stimulating these changes were many factors ranging from the de- 
velopment of trade, which required regulatory procedures, to the growth of 
national monarchies and to the success of schools in inculcating professional 
attitudes in administration and government. Legal thinking and procedures 
were increasingly applied to thought and debate about basic human activities 
such as marriage, contracts and the holding of property. Law schools, partic- 
ularly in southern Europe, developed the systematic teaching of both Roman 
law and canon law. In the modern English-speaking world, the ‘common law’, 
which is such a pronounced feature of modern English law, descends from the 
law which applied throughout the kingdom of England from the time of King 
Henry II (1154-89) and which was the king’s law. In Italian cities the courts of 
law also promoted common law through the sharing of practice on the basis 
of the written libri feudorum. The development of law contributed to social 

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cohesion and to community life within cities and kingdoms; the growth of 
the canon law contributed to the unification of the Latin church and to those 
parts of Europe where it was dominant. 

Consolidation and expansion require war as well as peace. At the beginning 
of the eleventh century, Adalbero, bishop of Laon in northern France, expressed 
his vision of the three orders in the house of God on earth: those who work, 
those who fight and those who pray. The second of these orders included lords 
and kings, soldiers and knights. The latter in particular were coming to form 
an order, the military order within which a specific status and specific ways of 
fighting were associated with knighthood and chivalry. The development of the 
use of heavy cavalry in military operations promoted the formation of an elite 
of well-armed and aristocratic knights; in turn this elite was promoted by its 
possession of castles and of local power. We generalise - but to reinforce a point: 
the growth of knightly power spread violence and horrifying brutality, but also 
provoked measures to disperse and to control it. In place of the experience 
of invasions and raids from Magyars, Vikings and Muslims, knightly violence 
was increasingly exported into Spain, Sicily, north-east Europe and the Holy 
Land, and from France into England in 1066. Moreover, the church sought to 
direct its use. 

For centuries warfare had played a role in the maintenance of Christian 
peace. It was the duty of kings to preserve justice and to protect the church as 
well as others from a sinful world. However, in the eleventh century, churchmen 
developed ideas about ways in which the church itself could fulfil these tasks. 
Fighting Muslims in Spain and in south Italy in the eleventh century was set 
into a context which included a sense of reform and of legitimate defence 
of Christian peoples and places, especially in the Holy Land. The papacy in 
the eleventh century recruited ‘knights of St Peter’ and associated them in 
the protection of pilgrimages and of Christian communities. Already in 1074 
Pope Gregory VII prepared for an expedition to help to relieve Christians in the 
east from Muslim rule. The justification of fighting non-Christians in defence 
of Christian belief and believers came to incorporate the conviction that such 
activity was a means to salvation for the warrior, indeed a duty that fell upon 
the church because of the harm being caused to Christ himself. In this way just 
Christian warfare was seen as a part of the religious life, not a duty that fell upon 
all who were professed in religion, but a duty which came to be attached to 
those who took the cross and who formed the new militarised religious orders. 

Between the early eleventh century and the late twelfth, the shape and 
strength of the Latin church was fundamentally transformed. The functions 
of kings and bishops were and always remained complementary and interpen- 
etrating, but the limits to what kings might do in ecclesiastical matters were 
vigorously asserted by ecclesiastical reformers who sought a clear-cut separation 

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of spiritual authority from lay power. A decline in the power of the German em- 
perors and a remarkable growth of papal government occurred between 1024, 
when Conrad II became the first Salian king of Germany, and 1099, when 
Pope Urban II died. Moreover, the federation of bishoprics and provinces was 
restructured and more sharply defined as an integrated network developed of 
jurisdictions descending from the Roman papacy through archbishops and 
bishops down to territorial parishes. Towards the end of the period this juris- 
diction was beginning to be exercised through church courts; the canon law 
had developed hugely. 

Reform of the church is one of the central facts of the history of the eleventh 
century because of its many wide and deep ramifications. It should not be seen 
only, or even primarily, in the light of conflict between papacy and empire or of 
an investiture contest. This is not to deny that the distinction between spiritual 
authority and lay power mattered enormously and that what this distinction 
meant to different people lay at the heart of many polemics and quarrels and of 
much thought and scholarship. Royal investiture of a prelate with his staff and 
ring as well as the performance of homage by the prelate to the king were firmly 
established practices that displayed the king’s pious care for the church and 
the prelate’s considerable responsibilities for the welfare of the kingdom. The 
reformers were right to question the grip that lay rulers had on the church and 
its property and to seek liberty. They were right to level the charge of simony 
against many who had been consecrated. Lay rulers, on the other hand, sought 
and needed the cooperation of prelates and clergy rather than an upheaval into 
which were injected the claims of Rome to a primacy which was supported by 
the activities of papal legates and their holding of councils. 

In reality, the contest between papacy and empire - a contest which is 
reflected and extended in other more localised disputes such as those be- 
tween the English crown and the archbishops Anselm and Thomas Becket 
of Canterbury - is a symptom and a manifestation of deeper urges and anxi- 
eties about decline and reform. It is not the root cause of reform or of opposition 
to it. There was, for example, a deepening divergence of outlook towards the 
past, in particular towards the Christian empire in antiquity. To supporters of 
Pope Gregory VII the Emperor Constantine I was a figure who exemplified the 
surrender of imperial sway over the clergy and of control over the endowments 
of the church; as the Donation which bears his name claims, Constantine 
endowed the church generously with lands in central and southern Italy, and 
it flourished. Rome, in particular, was adorned with splendid church build- 
ings. For reformers in the eleventh century, inspired by this idealised version 
of Constantine’s patronage as well as by surviving examples of early Chris- 
tian buildings, the spectacle of Henry III deposing three popes in a row, of 
southern and central Italy now torn apart by German, Norman and Muslim 

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militias, of the limited jurisdiction able to be exercised in the lands of St Peter, 
all this roused a strong ambition to halt a decline and to restore a golden age. 
Reform was renewal, and this included economic revival and a spate of build- 
ing and repair. To contemporary imperialists, on the other hand, the history 
of Christian empire looked quite different: the Franks had saved the papacy 
from the Lombards, Charlemagne had revived the empire in the west, and his 
successors had created, endowed and - crucially - protected churches which 
would not have survived but for them. The German emperor was the patricius 
Romanorum, the Romans’ protector. 

The quest into history involved the scrutiny of the texts bequeathed by the 
authorities, these being the Bible, the Church Fathers, the decisions of popes, 
emperors and councils. These were collected and arranged by many but from 
differing starting points, with differing aims and with differing interpretations. 
Establishing - or destroying - the authenticity of texts or their relative impor- 
tance or their permanent value or the universality of their relevance proved 
to be a challenge and certainly provided work for many scholars. Since the 
western church had in past centuries been more loosely united and governed 
than it was to be in the centuries to come, there were many local varieties of 
discipline and practice which competed for recognition now as a universal and 
durable norm. 

The desire for religious reform and the renewal of ecclesiastical structures and 
practice welled up from many different springs, so widely spread throughout the 
west that it is an impossible task for any historian at present to provide an overall 
explanation of how it occurred or why. Organised communities of monks, nuns 
and canons fulfilled many functions. They existed for prayer and catered for 
others - for guests, for pilgrims, for pupils in schools and for the aged. No one 
in the year 1000, even in the year 1100, would have expected the changes and 
upheavals that were to come within the monastic world. Important and secure 
institutions survived; others were newly created. But none was untouched by 
competition. There was a phenomenal growth in their number, in the numbers 
of men and women living the religious life, and in the diversity of ways in which 
they did so. Religious communities dedicated to works of active charity gained 
more prominence alongside contemplatives. As with so many of the changes 
in differing walks of life during the eleventh century, the upshot was a growing 
range of choice for those with the freedom to choose. There was some argument 
about which changes were for the good and which for the worse, but flexibility 
was shown in the face of diversity. Religious communities, however humble 
and however isolated, need some patronage, and patrons themselves are one 
of the factors which explain variations and developments. Monastic expansion 
was also a key feature in the general expansion of western church and society 
into and beyond the peripheral parts of Europe. 

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From Lund to Palermo and from Iona to Kiev, Europe was unquestionably 
Christianised in the sense that very many human lives were touched by Chris- 
tian practices, although there were also many communities of Muslims and 
Jews as well as significant pagan communities (e.g. in the Baltic region and 
Hungary). The history of popular Christianity in the period is both richly doc- 
umented and tantalisingly obscure. The building and rebuilding of churches 
took place with a frequency and on a scale that proves the need to provide for 
widespread use. On the other hand, the general level of understanding of basic 
Christian doctrine by the laity as well as the clergy is virtually impossible to 
assess. It may be assumed, however, that the main elements of Christian faith, 
such as the life and death of Christ, the notion of sin and penance, and the 
prospect of heaven or hell were widely familiar among the former and that 
liturgical and sacramental actions were also familiar to the latter. 

There were, however, to be new stresses and excesses. One was the straining of 
relationships in the Mediterranean world between Latin and Greek Christians 
that was seen to have grown into a schism by the third quarter of the twelfth 
century and that was then compounded by the establishment of Latin bishops, 
churches and monasteries in the Byzantine empire following the Latin conquest 
of Constantinople in 1204. Another was the hostility between Christians and 
their Jewish neighbours which became evident in the Rhineland during the 
early crusades. A third was the mounting recurrence of challenges to one or 
other aspect of the authorised teaching and practices of Catholic Christianity. 
Such challenges were directed against important particulars, but they led to the 
formation of groups such as the Waldensians, who still exist today as a church, 
and the Albigensian Cathars who turned back to the Manichean heresy. 

The preaching of the First Crusade at Clermont by Pope Urban II on 27 
November 1095 and the capture of Jerusalem by Latin forces on 15 July 1099 
are among the clearest indications that both a strengthened papacy and an 
expansionist Christendom were eager and able to tilt the scales against Islam in 
a new theatre of war, the Holy Land itself. The resurgence of western European 
influence in the Mediterranean world towards the end of the eleventh century 
took many forms besides that of crusade, and included commercial, military, 
colonial and monastic activity. These all form the background to the age of 
the crusades which was now to begin. The liberation of the Christians living 
in the holy places under Muslim domination in formerly Byzantine lands was 
an extension of the ambition to subjugate the Muslim enemies of the church 
who had ruled over Christians living in Spain and Sicily and elsewhere in the 
Mediterranean world. With the ushering in of crusades to the Holy Land there 
was a considerable increase in the efforts made in every western country to raise 
money and to encourage the recruitment of men who would take the cross as 
well as to realise the potential for colonisation and commerce. Early losses in 

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the east - Edessa in 1144, Jerusalem in 1187 - meant that such efforts became 
permanent. The crusades also opened a new chapter in the history of the 
relationships between Byzantium and the west. On the one hand, Byzantium 
looked for help from the west against Turkish advances in Asia Minor that 
were facilitated by the capture of Manzikert in 1071 and that culminated in 
the taking of Nicaea in 1078. On the other hand, the Latin capture and sack 
of Constantinople in 1204, and the attendant creation of a Latin empire of 
Constantinople - the ground for both events had been long prepared - has 
been described as the last of the barbarian invasions of the Roman empire. 

This period is a turning point in the relationships between Islam, Byzantium 
and the Latin west. We have in this volume laid emphasis on the fact that in the 
eleventh and twelfth centuries Christendom and Europe are not coterminous; 
nor is Latin Catholicism coterminous with western Europe, nor Islam with 
North Africa and the Middle East. There were large numbers of Christians 
who lived under Muslim rule in Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Iran, Egypt and 
Africa. Normally they were not persecuted. For many of them the crusades from 
the west - unlike the Turkish advances - were not a turning point. Those who 
lived in the Holy Land came under crusader rule during the twelfth century, but 
for Christians living both beyond the rule of Byzantium and beyond the reach 
of the crusades — among them the members of the Armenian and the Nestorian 
churches - their relationships with Islam and with Byzantium pursued different 
lines of development from those found in Europe and the Holy Land. 

Many Muslims lived in Europe then as today. Large parts of Spain and Por- 
tugal, the Balearics, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily and the south of Italy had Muslim 
populations. As Professor Kennedy writes (below, p. 599): ‘In the year 1000 
the caliphate of Cordoba was almost certainly the richest and most powerful 
polity in western Europe . . . Only in Constantinople could a comparable state 
be found.’ The eleventh century witnessed radical changes, not only through 
the advances made by Christian states in the north of Spain and through the 
fall of Toledo to Christians in 1085, but also through the disintegration of the 
Umayyad caliphate in Cordoba in the first quarter of the century. Yet Andalu- 
sia remained under Muslim control. That it did so serves as a reminder of 
the influence of developments in North Africa upon the history of southern 
Europe, and of limits to the steady growth of Latin domination of the Mediter- 
ranean world. The rise of the Almoravids in Morocco - they founded the city 
of Marrakesh in 1070 - enabled them to control the whole of Andalusia by 
1104. The Muslims in al-Andalus remained dependent upon the Almoravids 
and then upon their successors in North Africa, the Almohads. Ibn Rushd or 
Averroes (1126-98), one of the very greatest scholars of the twelfth century, lived 
in Cordoba. His commentaries on Aristotle were soon to be widely known in 
the Latin universities. Only in 1182, in his later years, did he leave Spain for 

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Marrakesh. The Straits of Gibraltar, like the English Channel at this time, were 
not a frontier but a connecting sea-way within an ‘empire’. Sicily and south 
Italy, on the other hand, came under Norman domination and became an in- 
tersection for Arab, Greek, Latin and Frankish cultures. Even in the late twelfth 
century many Muslims and ex-Muslims supported the Norman administra- 
tion in Sicily by providing it with the sophisticated skills that Norman barons 
lacked. There were common links and traditions that united Jews and Muslims, 
whether they lived in Europe or elsewhere in the Mediterranean world. We 
have therefore included accounts of Muslims and Jews both in western Europe 
and in western Islam. 

The Jews in Europe, like the Muslims, are a key element in the civilisation of 
medieval Europe. In the Muslim world Jews spoke and wrote Arabic, although 
Hebrew was the language of the Bible and of their liturgy; in Christian Europe 
Jews did not adopt the languages of their non-Jewish neighbours to the same ex- 
tent. That they formed a distinct element, and lived within semi-autonomous 
enclaves, does not diminish their importance. Jews suffered persecution in the 
twelfth century at the hands of Christians as well as - although to a lesser 
extent - of Almohads. Polemical writing by both Christians and Jews appears 
from the late eleventh century and no doubt signifies a background of run- 
ning disputes. However, in southern France and in Italy Jewish communities 
were long established and their security was rarely threatened by tensions with 
non-Jews. In the Iberian peninsula, Jewish communities survived the transi- 
tion from Muslim to Christian rule wherever this occurred. Very rarely did 
any Jew possess political power in Europe or present any political challenge. 
Throughout Europe, and especially in southern Europe, Jews were able to 
achieve prominence in commerce, banking and medicine. Indeed, it is prob- 
able that Christian restrictions on money lending gave Jewish financiers an 
advantage that was not usually outweighed by the financial burdens that they 
were at times made to bear. This period is particularly significant in the history 
of Jewry in western Europe for two reasons. First, Jewry became established 
in north-west Europe, although more weakly than in the south. Second, the 
decline of the ‘Abbasid caliphate in the eleventh century, which led to a loosen- 
ing of ties between western and eastern Islam, had a similar effect upon Jewish 
communities. Nevertheless, there was an efflorescence of Jewish cultural acti- 
vity in western Europe and it was not concentrated only in the south. The 
greatest of the medieval Jewish expositors of the Bible was Rashi of Troyes 
(1040-1105). Rashi’s esteem for the literal sense of Scripture was influential 
among contemporary and later Christian exegetes such as Andrew, a canon of 
the abbey of St Victor at Paris (d. 1175), who consulted Jewish rabbis and used 
Rashi’s commentaries. Arab scholarly works also came to be consulted and 
translated into Latin on a growing scale. Western translators in the eleventh 

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and twelfth centuries tended to take from Islamic and Jewish culture elements 
that were related to their own. What prompted them to do so may be parallel 
tendencies appearing at roughly similar moments in their cognate cultures as 
well as a common classical and biblical heritage. 

In language and literature, outside of Muslim and Jewish circles, there is, 
apparently, a paradox. On the one hand, local dialects and vernaculars were 
becoming strong enough to support creative writing. On the other hand, 
the Latin language enjoyed a golden age. Underlying this is the great use of 
both Latin and the vernacular for many practical as well as imaginative pur- 
poses. Latin, the common language of educated clergy, reinforced the cultural 
and ecclesiastical unity of Europe. But, as in so many fields of life during the 
period, the opportunity to make a choice was arriving, and literate people 
could also opt to write in the vernacular. It is from the twelfth century that we 
have the French romances written by Chretien de Troyes and from the early 
thirteenth-century Parzival written by Wolfram von Eschenbach. The writing 
of romances and the cult of chivalry develop together; earlier sagas and epics 
or chansons de geste - such as the Chanson de Roland - were also written down 
but came to typify a world that was being lost. 

The eleventh and twelfth centuries are the time when Romanesque art and 
architecture reached their zenith in all parts of western Europe; the twelfth 
is the century when the Gothic style began to flourish in the north. In the 
Mediterranean world the traditions which flourished in Byzantium were pow- 
erful also in Spain and especially in Sicily and Venice. To some extent the 
Romanesque style is the artistic counterpart of the renaissance in other fields 
of the legacy of classical antiquity. The transition from rounded to pointed 
forms is the most noticeable feature of the turn from Romanesque to Gothic; 
the change is noticeable in calligraphy as well as in arcades and vaults. What 
determined this change - aesthetic considerations were certainly important - 
is debatable. The planning of castles also evolved dramatically. Buildings and 
their decoration provide some of the most powerful statements of principle 
made in the period. All castles and all churches proclaim respectively lordship 
and faith, but often a particular interpretation was put on the basic message. 
The stark unadorned simplicity of early Cistercian monastic buildings was 
in keeping with the reforming strictness of the new movement; the sumptu- 
ous mosaics found in Sicily proclaim the ambitions of the Norman rulers to 
emulate the empire of Byzantium. 

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Robert Fossier 

the long period extending from 1050—80 to the dawn of the thirteenth century 
is often described as an ‘age of great progress’, and those who favour economic 
terminology locate the take-off of European history within it. 

Indeed, a survey of the various domains of human activity reveals all the 
signs of a taking wing, which would not be checked for a long time to come. 
The soldiers, priests, farmers and merchants of the west, who had previously 
been confined within the Carolingian empire or on its margins, penetrated 
as far as northern Scandinavia, to the heart of the Slav lands, to the south of 
Spain and to Sicily. They were to be found even in the Near East or in the 
Maghreb; the Mediterranean basin seemed once again to be Christian, as were 
the areas on the Baltic and the North Sea. Congregations were brought under 
the control of the Roman Catholic church, and of the monasteries; instruction 
was to be had at the universities, and was increasingly open to Jewish and 
Islamic culture; Romanesque and, later, Gothic edifices had an impact upon 
every parish. As for the social context, once the threshold of the year 1000 was 
crossed, the seigneurie in all its myriad forms seemed well adjusted to ruling or 
ordering populations, whether rural or not. 

The most obvious effect of this newly flourishing condition was the triumph 
in the west of a common frame of mind, from which fear and doubt had all 
but faded. There was less anxiety over spiritual matters, a greater intellectual 
dynamism and, gradually, a sense of a more harmonious social existence. Faith 
was no longer simply submission to a terrible God, nor was charity a guarantee 
of salvation or hope an anguished appeal to the unknown. Worship was now 
directed at a divinity who was at work, a Deus artifex, and believers placed 
their trust in reciprocal acts of generosity, and their hopes in contacts between 
equals. In short, the cardinal virtues had become the motors of human action, 
the bases of a society in which the dominant hierarchy had to provide room 
for conviviality, and for matters of common concern. It would be an error, 
however, to imagine a golden age, for this was still a society bounded on all 


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sides by the violence of the strongest, by the quest for profit, by blackmail of the 
weak, and even by moral depravity or stupidity. Yet historians are unanimous 
in their judgement regarding the progress achieved after 900, or even 1000. 

To enquire more deeply into the underlying causes of the manifest accel- 
eration of a process already discernible in the tenth century would involve us 
in debates which are of doubtful relevance to the topic in hand, and which 
have anyway been touched upon in vol. 111 of this series. None the less, two 
crucial elements underlie all of the phenomena referred to above, and, even if 
they were not themselves the cause of economic take-off in Europe, were at 
any rate its indispensable preconditions. It is therefore with the study of, first, 
the dramatic increase in population and, second, the unprecedented surge in 
agricultural production that this volume ought logically to begin. 


Even allowing for the obvious difference between, for example, rich, muddy 
plains and ‘desertlike’ mountains or forests, there was a general increase in 
population, reflected as much in the rebuilding of city walls as in the prolif- 
eration of new villages or in the colonisation of previously uncultivated areas. 
These processes are in evidence among the Celts, the Germans, the Iberians, 
the Scandinavians, the Italians and the Slavs, and no similar burst of energy 
would occur in Europe until the end of the eighteenth century. 


Historians used to have great difficulty in counting men, even in the ‘Carolin- 
gian clearing’, but there is now firm evidence upon which to rely. Admittedly, 
only one source would seem fully to satisfy a demographer’s curiosity, namely, 
the remarkable inquest undertaken in each and every village by William the 
Conqueror, in 1086, in those parts of the British Isles over which he held 
sway. Nothing in Europe prior to the fourteenth century can compare with 
Domesday Book, which even permits study of the evidence across a twenty- 
year timespan. It matters little whether the Conqueror’s motives were primarily 
military, economic or fiscal, for the fact remains that this unique document 
has spawned a vast bibliography. From the 276,000 informants we learn much 
about the million and a half (or more) subjects of William the Conqueror, 
their families, their equipment, their goods, their status and, more generally, 
the condition of eleventh-century England. There is less to go on in other parts 
of Europe, but archives are full of account rolls, usually of ecclesiastical origin, 
which list tenants and taxpayers, sometimes over a period of time. These may be 
found almost everywhere: in England (Evesham, Bath, Bury St Edmunds), in 

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The rural economy and demographic growth 


Germany (Fulda, Freising, Tegernsee), in Lorraine (Metz, Verdun, Gorze), in 
the Kingdom of France (Gand, Noyers), in Spain (Braga, Urgel) and in Italy 
(Farfa, Subiaco). 

In addition, the number of deeds recording land transactions, whether sales, 
gifts or leases, everywhere increased, and especially between 1120 and 1150. They 
featured thousands of lists of donors or of witnesses, along with fragmentary 
references to family structure, for a laudatio parentum was used throughout this 
period. It was then that the high and mighty, concerned to place their authority 
on a sound footing, had their genealogies recorded, in Italy, in northern France 
and in the Loire valley, as if they were conscious of the general increase in 
population. Archaeology does not want for proof of this either. For, in spite 
of the increasingly common practice of burial in wooden coffins, which is 
especially detrimental to the preservation of bones, excavations of cemeteries 
in Scandinavia, Ireland, Hungary and Poland - in other words, in those areas 
where the displacement of the cemetery occurred only belatedly - testify to the 
increasing number of human remains in this period. Furthermore, the evidence 
from literature, which by its very nature is not concerned with figures, sheds 
light, if only in passing, on the crowds which thronged around the gates of 
a town or which followed on the heels of a prince. One thus gains a vivid 
impression of teeming masses. 

None the less, we are concerned here with a ‘pre-statistical’ age and, with the 
sole exception of England, absolute figures are lacking. American, German and 
Italian researchers have speculated as to the total population of western Europe 
between 1050 and 1200, their estimates varying dramatically and ranging from 
40 or 55 million to 60 or 6 5 million over a century and a half, with a subsequent 
acceleration. Considered separately, the populations of the larger territorial 
units are presumed to have grown, in the case of the British Isles from 1.5 
million to over 2 million, in the case of France from 6 to 9 million, and in 
the case of Germany and Italy from 5 to 7 million. As the reader may have 
gathered, this amounts to a rise of 50 per cent, reaching too or 150 per cent in 
the thirteenth century. 

We can, however, be more precise when, in regions with more reliable 
documentary sources, the rhythm of growth is perceptible from one ‘generation’ 
to another, at any rate where boys (who alone receive regular mention in the 
texts) are concerned. Here estimates are more exact, with a non-cumulative 
annual rhythm of 0.2 to 0.5 being posited for twelfth-century England, and 
0.4 to 0.6 for France and Germany during the same period. It is worth noting 
that these figures give a rate of growth higher than the overall estimate quoted 
above. This is all the more the case when you consider that English, Belgian 
and French scholars have reckoned an average number of children for a fertile 
couple to be, between 1050 and 1100, around five or five and a half boys, rising 

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to from five to seven in the course of the following century. On the basis of 
these figures, I would deduce two crucial facts: first, that infant mortality was 
devastatingly high, as the cemeteries bear witness, running at 25 to 30 per cent 
for children under two years old, and that this acted as a powerful brake on 
growth; and, second, that the proportion of sterile or celibate couples was 
large, undoubtedly amounting to a third of the population. It is not hard to 
grasp what the psychological or, indeed, the juridical consequences of these 
phenomena must have been. 

We should none the less not lose sight of the central fact that between 
1000 and 1300 the population of western Europe more than doubled, and 
here and there even quadrupled. Still more impressive, since it has not been 
repeated subsequently in European history, is the duration of this growth. If 
one were obliged to identify a narrowly human cause, it would no doubt lie in 
the thoroughly ‘natalist’ model of marriage current during this period, a topic 
evidently requiring more extended discussion. 

Differences in rates of growth may be due to temporal discrepancies, for 
which a historian can unfortunately offer no explanation, save perhaps by 
invoking the uneven survival of source materials. Thus, as was noted in vol. 111 
chapter 2, the spurt evident from 950, or before, would seem to have had no real 
impact until after 1040-60 in central France or in northern Spain, and until 
after 1060—80 in northern and eastern France. Economic take-off in England 
or in the Rhineland had to wait until 1110-20, with Brittany and most areas of 
Germany being unaffected until the middle of the twelfth century. From this 
moment on, however, no important zone could fail to be influenced by this 
formidable new impetus. 

The evidence regarding everyday life 

Cemeteries are not markedly more informative for this period than they were 
for the previous centuries. People were shorter than we are, with a sturdier 
bone structure, especially evident in women’s legs and pelvis. Improvements in 
osseous tissue may, however, reflect the advent of a more balanced diet after the 
year 1000. Narrative and iconographic sources from the Romanesque period 
are relatively plentiful, but they do not tell us much that we did not already 
know. With painted or sculpted figures, and the depiction of characteristic 
features, there is a greater concern with representing the function or social role 
of a person than with visual realism. Where verbal description was concerned, 
among poets in the Iberian peninsula or in the zone where the langue d’oc was 
spoken, and among the troubadours of north-west Europe or of Germany, we 
find only caricatures, which invariably flatter lady and knight, while denigrating 
the peasant. 

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The rural economy and demographic growth 


Some aspects of everyday life are none the less discernible through the mist, 
and indicate a degree of progress. Longevity, for example, increased, but it 
makes little sense, given the very high rates of infant mortality, to define it in 
terms of some general notion of life expectancy. We should concentrate, in fact, 
upon the average age at death for men, since we know less about this in the case 
of women, who gave birth so often and in such unhygienic conditions that they 
were still more prone to disease. Fifty or fifty-five years was a lifespan readily 
attained by the great and the powerful, who did not always take the best care 
of themselves. This would be true of kings or prelates, who were constantly on 
the move, and of fighting men active on the field of battle or in tournaments. 
Emperors lived, on average, fifty-two years, English kings fifty-three, and the 
Capetian monarchs fifty-six. Clerics, who were not by any means sedentary, 
beat all the records, with the abbots of Cluny living well past eighty. More 
telling still is the fact that, in 1194, an appraisal of the men at arms in the 
service of the king of France shows that 10 per cent of the sergeants were under 
twenty, 56 per cent were between twenty-one and thirty-nine, a further 20 per 
cent were in their forties, while 14 per cent were over fifty, each and every one 
of them still bearing arms. 

There is perhaps some link between this lengthening of active lifespan and 
the demonstrable improvement in diet. Admittedly, bread still predominated. 
The Cistercians were entitled to 300 grams a day, and during a famine in or 
around 1125, the good Count Charles of Flanders arranged for a kilo to be 
given to each poor person. However, some historians have posited an increase 
in the proportion of animal protein in the diet, until it accounted for 1600 
calories out of a total of 4000. Excavations of refuse dumps from this period 
in northern Germany (Potsdam, Liibeck) reveal a rise in the consumption of 
beef (between 51 and 69 per cent), believed to be a better source of energy, 
a standstill in that of pork (27-36 per cent, depending upon the site), which 
was heavy and oxidising, and the virtual disappearance of mutton and venison 
(4-12 per cent). If the tenth century was, in Lynn Whites words, ‘stuffed full of 
peas’, then the twelfth was weighed down by sides of beef. A word of caution is, 
however, in order here. The famine of 1033—5, which saw the eating of human 
flesh, may well have been the last general dearth to have occurred on a large 
scale in the west, but Flemish, Angevin and Toulousain chroniclers describe 
both the famines of 1095, II2 5> n 44> 1160 and n 7 2 > which were doubtless 
local, and that of 1195-7, which was general. These calamities arose, it may be 
allowed, because supplies were inadequate, and because it was impossible to 
rectify shortages on a regional basis, but it was also the case that population 
grew at such a rate as to outstrip the overly sluggish growth in the production 
of foodstuffs. Renart, in the very middle of the twelfth century, was after all 
forever worrying about his next meal. 

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1 6 


Whether sated or still ravenous, men certainly enjoyed better health dur- 
ing this period, and the decalcified skeletons characteristic of the Carolingian 
‘renaissance’ were now less often to be found in burial grounds. Yet the study 
of miracles of feeding or healing, and the fragmentary information we have 
regarding the death of notables, shows that the threshold of vulnerability had 
merely been shifted a little. People succumbed to digestive disorders, dysentry, 
cirrhosis and diarrhoea among them, rather than to dearth as such. Fractures of 
fragile bones decreased, while nervous disorders, shingles, epilepsy and madness 
proliferated. Where Sigebert of Gembloux refers to ‘pestilence’, in Lotharingia 
in 1090, we have no hesitation in identifying an outbreak of cholera, latching 
on to an already debilitated intestinal system. Likewise, ‘Saint Anthony’s Fire’, 
which was precipitated by ergot-infested barley and which wreaked havoc in 
the Rhine and Rhone valleys between 1090 and mo, took its name from the 
fevers and hallucinations unleashed by the disordering of the central nervous 
system occasioned by this parasitical fungus. 

However, these diseases, whether spread by real or by imagined contagion, 
would seem not to have disturbed men as much as did leprosy. This condition, 
known in the west since antiquity, flared up again after 1090-1100, perhaps 
on account of the crusaders’ contacts with the east, where the problem was 
endemic. The leper - known through a corruption of Lazarus as a ladre or a 
lazar - suffered striking disfigurement or mutilation, and the illness was so 
contagious that it could even be transmitted by objects that had been touched. 
Isolated or confined in lazar-houses or maladreries (of which by around 1200 
there were almost a hundred on the lie de France), lepers were in effect regarded 
as the living dead, and received no care at all. It has been estimated that up 
to 2 per cent of the population may have been affected. However, a gathering 
of leprous witnesses, summoned by King Mark in order to surrender Isolde to 
them, or again a king of Jerusalem, raises the possibility that the condition was 
sometimes confused with spectacular but non-infectious skin conditions. 

The family framework 

Descriptions have already been given (vol. hi, chapter 2 ) for the period prior 
to the year 1000, both of the protective role played by the family, and of its 
constraining influence upon the individual. Here, then, I would simply add 
that the marginalisation of the family clan continued, and was in practice 
completed. The decline in the kin group’s authority over the couple, especially 
in the context - relatively easy to discern in the sources - of transfers of 
landed property, was, however, realised only gradually, and with occasional 
regressions to an earlier stage. When groups were taken in hand by especially 
powerful individuals, as was the case in the Mediterranean zone, or when 

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The rural economy and demographic growth 


collective attempts at land reclamation occurred, as in Germanic territories, 
in mountains or in areas recovered from the sea, there may well have been a 
revival, albeit temporary, of fraternae, consorzii, joint-families and kin groups 
of every sort. Yet 1130-50 was almost everywhere a turning point, for from then 
on the proportion of acta or deeds requiring the involvement of a family group 
dropped definitively from a half to a quarter, whether in Latium, in Picardy, 
in Catalonia, in the Maconnais or in Bavaria. In the thirteenth century, the 
proportion would fall still further, to no more than a few per cent. 

The triumph of the individual or conjugal deed was in part brought about 
by the church, especially in the Gregorian period (1070-1130), then again at 
the end of the twelfth century and up to the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. 
Yet actual developments in economic structure were of equal importance. The 
gathering together, whether spontaneously or under coercion, of peasants in 
grouped villages was based upon the ‘coagulation’ of young couples escaping 
from parental control, and the rural immigrants who began to settle in the 
towns were likewise the emancipated fragments of a clan. The resulting changes 
in the social fabric of village or urban quarter, indeed in the organisation of 
labour, which was no longer ‘demesnial’ but domestic, precipitated a shift in 
production and distribution. 

One should, however, note that the desperate attempts made in the twelfth 
century by aristocratic families to reconstitute or even to invent genealogies 
and alliances, the prosecution in a number of ‘lineages’ of a ‘matrimonial strat- 
egy’ designed to reinforce the vigour and homogeneity of the blood group, 
disdaining canonical prescriptions or even incest within the seventh degree, 
show that the dominant elements in society fiercely resisted this development. 
Nothing less than the cohesion of the inheritance, and therefore of economic 
or political power, was at stake. It is true that, at the other end of the social 
scale, the juridical or financial obstacles to the free marriage of unfree men were 
virtually insuperable, and in isolated zones such as mountain valleys endoga- 
mous marriage was almost inevitable. Save where accessible through manorial 
rolls in England, intrafamilial conflicts have not been much studied. Such 
conflicts, generally turning upon material interests rather than upon marital 
disputes, do however shed much light upon these structures. In the country- 
side, three-quarters of the insults, brawls and murders which came before the 
judges concerned feuds between kin groups, which sometimes formed coali- 
tions and perpetrated assassinations one against the other. In the towns, the 
proportion fell to around a half. Such implacable rivalries may, however, have 
encouraged the courts to show mercy. For every hundred murderers acting on 
their own or in a group, only 7 per cent were executed, while over 40 per cent 
were exiled. The remainder got off with a few years of harsh imprisonment or 
a cash payment. 

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Just as the extended family had not yet lost its social and, more particularly, 
its economic function, so too marriage uniting two future spouses consenting 
through dilectio was not as yet, whatever the church maintained, a sworn 
societas of consortes, a sacrament free from all outside interference. To begin 
with, girls were often married, as we shall see below, at a tender age, and were 
consequently less able to make a personal choice of their own. They were 
still in this regard sub jugo patris, or under the guardianship of their fathers. 
In addition, marriage breakdowns, for whatever reason, may well have been 
likened, as at the council of London in 1096, to a breach of oath, and in 1215 at 
the Lateran the church had to stipulate a delay before marriage, in the course 
of which - these were the ‘bans’ - kinsmen could state their objections. In 
addition, in a number of places, poverty or pressure from kin led the young 
couple to reside with one or other set of parents, generally that of the man, 
and this greatly restricted their freedom of action, not to mention, obviously, 
traditional conflicts between mother and mother-in-law. Finally, local custom, 
the mos contrahendi, though it required witnesses, one of whom had often to 
be a priest, and a degree of publicity, might involve, as in Mediterranean areas, 
the exchange of gifts between the two families. We are still a long way from a 
genuinely free union. 

The above observations lead on naturally to a discussion of the situation of 
women, to which changes in mores, during the period surveyed here, were, on 
balance, favourable. The qualification is necessary for, while long-established 
guarantees in law such as dowries and dowers had not altered, too much 
ought not to be made of various superficially more spectacular advances in 
the condition of women. For example, the service of the lady so prominent 
in the songs of the pays d’oc, or the courtly romances of the late twelfth 
century, were in the end designed to celebrate masculine conquest of ‘women- 
as-objects’. One may, in addition, take the cult of the Virgin, prosecuted with 
great vigour by the Cistercians after 1130 or 1140, as an endorsement of the 
role of mother, and therefore of the womb, but not everyone can be Mary. 
Many of the devout were likewise drawn to Mary Magdalene, but there was 
always something a little ambiguous about her cult. Finally, one should bear 
in mind that the ‘matrimonial model’ of the twelfth century, which might join 
a fifteen-year-old maid to a young ploughboy, or to an apprentice weaver, or 
even to a future knight, any of whom would probably be over twenty-five years 
old, placed young women in a situation of affective and economic dependence. 
Where sexual relations were concerned, an innocent was tied to a man who 
would generally have had the opportunity, and likewise the inclination, to 
frequent prostitutes, with the blessing in fact of the church, since it preferred 
prostitution to rape or to adultery. 

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None the less, women’s circumstances had improved, in part because, being 
then less numerous than men, they were more in demand and rarely remained 
unmarried, and in part also because the new arrangements inside the house, 
where they had exclusive control over hearth, larder and children, gave them 
an authority which is not explicitly mentioned in any extant text, but which 
men had certainly to acknowledge. Furthermore, lists of landholders attest 
that women, whether daughters or widows, would, in certain circumstances, 
own land (their share of the soil increasing in this period from 7 to 15 per 
cent), and they also held undisputed sway over whole sectors of the economy 
(for example, haymaking, spinning and basket-making). We will also never 
know the degree to which, within a couple, the woman exerted sexual control. 
Once the eleventh-century fashion against marriage, and then the Cathar crisis, 
had passed, the church was tireless in promoting regular, socially responsible 
procreation. Given the astonishing number of royal children (fourteen, for 
example, in the case of Blanche of Castile), no sooner had women attained 
puberty than they must have feared an uninterrupted succession of sometimes 
dangerous pregnancies. Yet the vogue for manuals or devices for contraception, 
the extraordinarily lengthy periods of suckling, the church’s outcries and threats 
of punishment provide ample evidence for a freedom from sexual control which 
seemed to make light of the supposed wishes of the Creator. 

The legal framework 

It is something of a relief for the historian to turn from the domain of private 
life, which neither Grace nor the eye may readily penetrate, to that of law, 
and especially where it is concerned with the management of property. In this 
regard, the most pressing problem of the period was not that of the adminis- 
tration of the conjugal patrimony. There is general agreement between a wide 
range of texts and customary usages, perceptible as much in the Novellae of 
Justinian as in subsequent versions, in the canon law compilations of Gratian 
in northern Italy around 1140, or in the customs of northern Europe, initially 
drafted by Glanvill in Normandy in 1180, or earlier still, in English common 
law. The wife brought a dowry, which the husband would administer, even to 
the point of squandering it; as a widow, she would have a dower which custom 
fixed at one third or more of the goods of the husband. The church saw to 
the observance of this custom. Admittedly, there was no lack of examples of 
dowries that were not paid, of dowers reduced by the husband or contested 
by heirs. Conversely, the practice of dispossessing a dowried girl of any inheri- 
tance from her kin extended from the Channel to Sicily between 1080 and 1160. 
However, when all was said and done, if the ‘baron’ managed both separate 

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and joint property honestly, a couple would thrive. Besides, it goes without 
saying that both these practices and these guarantees only affected those with 
property; the others, who were in fact the majority, must by definition have 
been free from surprise. 

Matters became more complicated once death occurred. Should one share 
out property, if possible on an equal basis between the children, while leaving 
the widow a third in ‘customary portion’, or should one rather express one’s 
own preferences, opting indeed for partial or total dispossession? Should one 
follow the egalitarian customs of warrior peoples, the Celts or Germans, or 
should one choose between legally recorded wills in the Roman fashion and 
the (admittedly) unequal divisions envisaged by the Justinian code? Restraint 
upon choice, through, for example, indivision, frerage or parage, may well suit a 
feudal world, preoccupied with continuity of service, or at a pinch with a large 
fixed payment or farm. Yet conflicts, which might be contained in the short 
term, would wreak havoc in the second generation. Choice became obligatory, 
and solutions adopted even within a single region were so various as to defy 

We are obviously better informed about the situation of those who owned a 
substantial amount of property, and it is to this that the following remarks are 
addressed. For the others, it was simply a question of prevailing usage, pressure 
from kin or group interest, and here, more than in any other context, law was 
a shell whose precise content is perforce obscure to us. Among the high and 
mighty, especially if they held fiefs and offices, the rule giving the advantage 
to the elder (or, to begin with, perhaps to one of the males without further 
discrimination) was introduced, for obvious military and political reasons. 
Male primogeniture was well established even before 1030, from Scotland to the 
Loire, and, within a hundred years, would prevail among the whole aristocracy. 
What, then, of the younger brothers? They would be left either the joint 
property, or else the separate property brought by their mother; or else they 
would be cast out, to swell the ranks of the ‘noble’ proletariat travelling in 
search of land and wife on the highways or in the crusades. The shortcomings 
of such practices are only too evident. What if a will was disregarded? What if 
the elder son died? What if there were daughters without dowries? What if the 
dowager were to remarry? What if there were children from several different 
beds? I could extend this list still further. Indeed, a large part of what we call 
feudal anarchy, that is to say, private wars, owed its origin almost entirely to 
such complications. Acts of revenge, known as faida, vendetta or werra, could 
of course have some other cause than family matters, but they were forever 
being precipitated by the reorganisation of inheritances. 

To ensure that all such usages were respected, something more than the 
written law was of course required and, in countries where there was an oral 

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The rural economy and demographic growth 


tradition, one custom could always be played off against another. This is why 
the most effective means to cement these groupings of family or friends was 
a public oath accompanied by ritual gestures. The oath owed its prestige to 
the fact that it was the obligatory path to salvation, and the breach of it 
removed one from the community of Christian believers. Gestures derived their 
power from the fact that holding, touching, giving and taking, whether hands, 
lips, shoulders or a symbolic object were involved, represented a commitment 
through the flesh which retraced in some way that of the soul. Christ himself 
laid hands upon the sick man just as a king might place his upon a document 
that he could not read. 

The house 

As the primary cell of family life, once the population had assumed a sedentary 
mode of existence, the rural house begins in the eleventh and twelfth centuries 
to reveal to us some of its structures, which would seem accurately to reflect 
the evolution of the family. Archaeologists have excavated sites which were 
sometimes first inhabited in the early middle ages, as in England (Chalton), 
Germany (Warendorf) and France (Modeville), but the majority of villages 
founded then were abandoned from the tenth century, and sometimes indeed 
from as early as the eighth century. The huts which appeared alongside the 
great Germanic or Anglo-Saxon halls, the remains of stone dwellings in the 
Mediterranean villae, have generally disappeared. The villages arising out of 
nucleation, that great phase of reordering of the habitat discussed in vol. iii, have 
often survived up until the present day. Yet many, having been deserted at some 
point between the fourteenth and the seventeenth centuries, have left sufficient 
traces to allow us to reconstitute the twelfth-century house. Thus, at Wharram 
Percy (Yorkshire), Gomeldon (Wiltshire), Pen er Malo (Morbihan), Rougiers 
(Var), Hohenrode (Saxony), Husterknupp (the Rhineland), Brucato (Sicily), 
and in a hundred other places, simple houses overwhelmingly predominate. 

In spite of the obvious fascination of the topic, it would be a digression to 
linger over building materials, roofing, the construction of walls or of storage 
pits, for that would be to stray into pure archaeology. Three features with 
obvious social consequences do, however, require emphasis. To begin with, 
surface areas fell by more than a half, so that where the halls of West Stow 
measured from 150 to 200 square metres, the houses at Rougiers were 50 
square metres. The latter were designed to hold a conjugal family, the former 
a group of several dozen persons. From this time on, livestock was located in 
another place, removed from direct contact with men and placed in a stable 
or a sheepfold, thus perhaps anticipating an agricultural complex. By the same 
token, fire was brought inside the house. This was a momentous event, leading 

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to hearths that were open or attached to the wall, with or without hoods, and 
passing through a series of stages running on well past the period surveyed 
here. From now on, however, the hearth stood at the very heart of the house, 
being used for cooking, for getting warm, for the care of infants and the sick, 
and for sitting around at night and refining the folklore of the village. For all 
such activities the women bore the overwhelming responsibility. Flenceforth, 
‘fire’ was a word for a house, and although there is no text extant before the 
thirteenth century which allows us to estimate how many such a rural building 
might have held, the conjugal group with its still dependent offspring, say, 
some six to eight children, could be taken as a plausible average. 

The third feature may well have been, to begin with, less general and less 
apparent, involving as it did the internal partitioning of what had up until 
then been a single hall. At first, this undoubtedly consisted of hangings on 
poles, but it later became a panel made of planks closing off a chamber and 
thus constituting a space to which a couple might retire, and so enjoy some 
privacy. Once again, it was almost certainly the women who benefited most 
from such a ‘camera’. 

The above were peasant houses, built for those who worked in the fields. We 
know, however, from the dig at Charavines (Isfere), a site which was inhabited 
for no more than three decades, from 1020 to 1050, that only a few refinements 
in construction and a larger surface area distinguished those houses in which, 
to judge by the furnishings, fighting men and the rich resided. It was therefore 
somewhat later that a more striking contrast was perceptible between towers 
rising above moats and the residences of the lowly. The famous account of the 
chateau d’Ardres (Pas de Calais), around 1120, mentions a tower so ordered 
inside as to give a prominent place to bedrooms and kitchens, and nothing at 
all to the garrison, which barely warrants a mention. 1 

The village 

It is still harder to reconstruct the stages through which the village itself passed. 
Nucleation, which first arose in the tenth century in southern Europe, and 
which would only cross the Rhine in the twelfth century, has been subject 
to so many variants or exceptions that archaeologists and historians are very 
far from having arrived at a consensus. There are a number of unresolved 
questions touching upon various different aspects. One of the most troubling 
concerns the stages through which this agglomerated form may be presumed 
to have passed, with scholarly opinion being divided as to whether the many 
dispersed casaux in the Mediterranean countryside constitute the residues of 

1 Lambert of Ardres, Historia comitum Ghisnensium, c. 127. 

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The rural economy and demographic growth 

2 3 

formerly inhabited sites or abortive regroupings. Were the three or four houses 
at Charavines, prior to their abandonment, a ‘proto-village’ which had not yet 
developed, or an isolated outpost? Were the three sites at Wharram Percy the 
residues of earlier shifts, or were they contemporary nuclei which had as yet not 
fused? At what point, in the castelnaux of Gascony, were the fortified centre, 
the ecclesiastical centre and the residences lying in between enclosed within 
the same precinct? We also lack certain knowledge as to whether the church 
linked the houses before or after they were first built; as to when precisely 
burial began to serve psychologically to unite the living and the dead; and as 
to whether the lord’s castle attracted artisans and agricultural labourers or, at a 
later stage, prevailed upon them. 

In spite of the hundreds of sites that have already been excavated (over 
300 in England, over 200 in Germany), it would be premature to attempt 
a classification. On the other hand, some features were to be found almost 
everywhere by 1200, and it is worth listing them here. The internal structure 
of the village, whether it was perched on a hill in Italy or disposed in a line in a 
German forest, had certain elements in common. If we hesitate before applying 
the term ‘village’ to earlier forms of settlement, it is precisely because they lacked 
such elements. There was, to begin with, the meeting place, called in different 
regions the area, the foro, the couderc or the green. The elders would gather 
there, around the elm or the lime tree, and compile the history of the village. 
There too the lord would decide upon the date of the harvest; there would be 
held the small local markets, to which everyone, especially the seigneur himself, 
would take their surplus; the common herd would also be rounded up there. 
Almost everywhere we find other forms of fixity or of anchorage, which testify 
to the existence of a communal life, among them smithies, wells, wash-houses 
and cess-pits, although mills were generally separate. Both from texts, which 
proliferated in the thirteenth century, and from archaeological evidence, we 
know that villages had begun to mark out their territory with crosses, town 
towers, and sometimes palisades (as at Etter) separating them from the fields. 
As one retraces the slow and laborious development of customs and freedoms 
agreed between the lord of the place and his men, one notes that the peasantry 
was at pains from an early stage to safeguard its own ‘peace’ through the defence 
of its own territory. It is probably justified to treat the amicitiae of northern 
France, the consorzii and hermandades of the Mediterranean areas, and the 
German Landfrieden, all of which flourished between 1100 and 1200, as being 
primarily concerned with the defence of the community. 

It would seem to be beyond dispute that the bonds thus forged in the village 
lent it an unprecedented degree of cohesion, which in fact assumed a highly 
concrete form. One expression of this would be the village banquet held on the 
feast day of its patron saint, the libatio, potacio or drykkia, which was known in 

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northern and north-west Europe from the tenth century, and which spread to 
the whole continent in the course of the twelfth century. These events would 
seem to have served as the central focus for the village confraternities, which 
are obscure to us because they were so frowned upon by the church, and which 
levied money, either to keep the peace (the paziers of the Forez and of the 
Languedoc regions) or to acquire ‘communal’ property (from 1120 or 1130 in 
Dorset or in the Maconnais) or to come to the aid of villages afflicted by illness 
in the family or at work (as in the Low Countries or in Franconia, from around 
1070 or 1090). These common fields, or Germanic Allmende, very probably 
did not answer all the community’s requirements, for it needed more space to 
graze its herds, forage for wood or even gather and uproot, for reclamation of 
rights of use with regard to waste land was the quintessential symbol of village 
unity. Its earliest manifestations served as a sort of birth certificate, dated to 
something like 1040 or 1070 along the Saone and the Po, in Germany, and in 
northern Spain. 

The above considerations together suggest one crucial conclusion regarding 
the history of the rural areas in the west, namely, that the village was well on 
the way to acquiring a juridical personality of its own. For peasants leading 
a settled existence, the manentes and the villani, now periodically assembled 
at churches, cemeteries and fountains, in squares or before the perron from 
which the lord gave judgement; they would together take refuge in the woods, 
in order to evade some incursion, whether military or fiscal; they had their 
own representatives, their priest, their smith, their notary and the masters of 
their confraternity, all of whom might be prepared to speak up for them. It 
lies outside my topic to discuss the problem of village communities, be it the 
Iberian fueros, the Italian statuti, the laws of northern France or the German 
Weistumer from the year 1000 to 1250, but these texts plainly represent the 
natural culmination of the slow process by which the villages took root in the 
countryside. It would be a historical travesty to regard this development as a 
pale imitation of the urban ‘communes’. The lord could have been in conflict 
with his men, with a mind only to selling them what they asked, and at a high 
price, while keeping both game and armed force for himself, but such instances 
were very rare. Most often, agreements were made in the common interest. 
Once the disturbances of the eleventh century had passed, there is no evidence 
anywhere of a challenge to the actual principle of the seigneurial system. 


If one of the crucial legacies bequeathed to Europe by the middle ages has been 
the conquest of the rural areas, its main phase ought to be dated to some point 
between the middle of the eleventh century and the middle of the fourteenth 

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The rural economy and demographic growth 25 

century. Intrinsically linked to the great surge in population, the encroachment 
of ‘plain’ upon ‘bosc’, or that of the ager upon the saltus, and the consequent 
increase in arable land, were made at the expense of zones of heath, of natural 
meadows, of marsh, of scrubby waste land and of more or less dense forests. So 
disparate and clandestine has the struggle between man and the uncultivated 
soil been that the study of it by historians has tended in the end to be somewhat 

The evidence 

The medieval assault upon trees has long been symbolised by the figure of the 
‘settler-monk’, generally presumed to be a Cistercian, but this is an ill-founded 
conception, which altogether fails to do justice to the facts. Conversely, there is 
no shortage of traces of human endeavour in many domains to which scientific 
research now gives us access. I would, for example, refer the reader to the 
pedological study of soils podzolised by overintensive exploitation; to the search 
in arable land for mardelles, that is to say, blobs of ash left in forests by charcoal- 
burners; to the study of ploughing ridges ( ackerberg ), which bear witness to the 
ancient extension of cultivation; to research into surviving hedgerows, whose 
species may be classified and dated (as in England); or, finally, to the study of 
vegetation that had rotted down as a result of ancient coppicing. However, it is 
obviously to palynological studies that we owe the most precise measurements, 
relative though these admittedly still are. Formerly restricted to the peat-bogs 
of Germany, of Hesse and Hanover, or of the Belgian Eifel, Gaume, Campine, 
and Condroz, of Somerset, Kent and Oxfordshire, of Jutland and the Limburg, 
pollen-counts have now reached the Valais, the Auvergne, Languedoc and 
Brittany, and it is to be hoped that they will in time be employed still further 
to the south. Arboreal and herbaceous residues unroll before our eyes the carpet 
of ancient vegetation. 

Since reclaimed territory often becomes built upon, historians have for obvi- 
ous reasons long been drawn to toponomastics, a science which unfortunately 
presents many pitfalls. As many instances even in our own century serve to 
show, a name may be shifted from one place to another. Suffixes, or indeed 
whole toponyms, cannot be dated with any certainty to 1120, say, rather than 
to 1300. The Germanic rod, ried or schlag, the Saxon leys, dens or hurst, the 
langue d’o'il rupt, the langue d’oc rouchi or artiga, not to speak of the uses of 
dorf, hof, bach and ville, which mean anything and everything, are evidence 
at best for an assault on waste areas, but nothing more can be inferred from 
them. Wholly divergent interpretations have been offered of the precise forms 
of division. Thus, strip-fields or, conversely, square areas in forest clearings have 
been held by scholars to owe their origin to the selfsame process of settlement. 

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So it is that here, almost uniquely in the domain of archaeogeography, the 
texts are king or, at any rate, those which describe the conquest of the soil, and 
refer, variously, to lawsuits over the novales tithes payable for reclaimed land, to 
contracts regarding the ploughing of a strip of woodland, to an agreement over 
new pastures, to the levying of specific taxes, often in the form of fruits offered 
at harvest {hebergement or albergue in France), or to specific livello contracts in 
Italy. Yet these texts, often owing their preservation to the agency of the church 
alone, generally concern the rich. For this reason it seems reasonable to argue 
that the crucial thing about gagnage, to employ the term from eastern France, 
is that it was brought about by the peasant himself, by his family, and indeed 
by the village group, and very probably by more or less clandestine devices, 
through the theft of a furrow here or there on virgin soil, in the hope that the 
lord’s sergeant would not notice. 

At the end of a few years, this process would produce a full hectare, and one 
might establish a cabanneria, or a borderie, upon it. Conversely, there are many 
references in the texts to groups of men called upon, sometimes in fact from 
very near at hand, to carry out the work, who were known as hospites or ‘guests’. 
They would travel from Brittany to Le Perche, from London to the Weald, 
from Lauragais to the Toulousain, and from Wiirtemberg to the Jura, and 
they were often free men ( Konigsfreien ) or men liberated upon that occasion. 
As for the masters of the soil, who supervised such operations once they were 
conducted on any scale, one should not, as I remarked above, exaggerate the part 
played by the church. Ecclesiastical involvement is evident in the areas around 
Ely, Ramsey, Faversham and Rochester in England, and in the areas around 
Niederaltaich, Tegernsee, Passau and Salzburg in Germany, to cite examples 
from north-western Europe, yet hundreds of other cases might be discussed 
for Catalonia, Lombardy, the Loire valley and Picardy. It is worth noting in 
passing that, where monks are concerned, the Cistercians were outstripped by 
the Benedictines or canons regular. Unfortunately, the great lay lords almost 
never left any record of their personal initiatives, so that mention may be made 
of the Clares and of the Babenbergs, but of very few others. Fiowever, those who 
wielded the axe were obviously their men, even if it was in a wood surrendered 
by the church in return for hefty novales. The more ambitious the venture, the 
more complex the division of labour would be. Sarteurs, or locatores, recruited 
the labour force, which often took the form of teams ( comparticipes ). The 
division of labour, known to us only in its upper echelons, was evident in 
northern France or in central Germany from 1160, and perhaps still earlier on 
the public lands [gualdi publici ) of central Italy. The sharing out of the profits 
would generally seem to have involved allocating the tithe to the church, 
hunting and leasing rights ( champart , agriere) to the new master, the harvest, 
the rights of user, the seed and the respites to the woodman-turned-farmer. 

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If I have so far made no reference to the various forms of uncultivated land, it 
was in order not to clutter my exposition unduly. One ought not to confuse 
clearance in the strict sense of the term, which was undertaken in the more or 
less dense maquis or mescla of the southern countries, and which involved the 
destruction of scrub and thorn, with the felling of oaks and beeches in northern 
Europe. Even in the latter, indeed, one ought to differentiate between the dense 
copses of German or Picard oaks, or more rarely of conifers, growing on heavy 
soils with a sandstone or clay bedrock, the more scattered birch-woods on the 
silica soils of central Europe, and the beech and chestnut groves of central and 
western France. One ought also to bear in mind that the forest was a nutritive 
zone, a terrain amenable to every sort of hunting, a space in which pigs could 
roam and, of course, a source for wood, the chief raw material of the middle 
ages. It was not only hermits, exiles and robbers who were to be found there, 
but also charcoal-burners, smiths and shepherds. It was as if, in attacking the 
forest, they were entering into a wager that they might recover by other means 
what it anyway offered in its virgin state. Changes in vocabulary during this 
period also reflected the evolution in attitudes towards those spaces that were 
still untamed. Thus, after 1100, the old words such as saltus, lucus and foresta, 
used since antiquity to invoke something sacred, were gradually supplanted 
by silva, hoscum and nemus, all terms having in the Latin of the day a more 
mundane connotation. 

The results 

In order to appraise the results, one would obviously have to be in a position to 
assess the extent of virgin soil, for example, around the year 1000, and here the 
suspicion is that we lack sufficient evidence. Domesday Book records 4 million 
hectares, the sole reliable datum prior to the valuations of the fourteenth 
century, and this figure implies that the British Isles were none too heavily 
forested. France can hardly have been much more densely covered. Germany 
was the exception here, with as much as 40 per cent of its territory being 
wooded, but it is not wholly clear whether, in this context as in others, that 
figure is supposed to include the heaths, the fern-brakes, the hroeken and 
meersen of reeds by the North Sea, the hrosses and gastes of the Atlantic zones 
and, of course, the Alpine forest, which altogether eludes us. 

We have only a crude and approximate conception of the actual labour, 
although clearly it involved attacking the forests with axes, burn-beating before 
or afterwards, and destumping with harnessed teams two or three years later. 
There would no doubt be grazing to begin with, although sowing would follow 
after four to five years. It is therefore hard to gauge the pace at which the land 
was cleared, although one might reasonably posit an average of one journal 

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or one arpent (from 30 to 50 ares, that is, from 3000 to 5000 square metres) 
brought into use by one man in a year. The total area cleared eludes us, for on 
the one hand there is the half hectare seized by stealth, on the other the forest 
of 10,000 hectares. Where the woods were already in retreat, to the west and 
south of the continent, there was a gain of perhaps 10 to 15 per cent. Further 
to the north and to the east, the figure may have been as high as 50 per cent. 
With dates, on the other hand, we are on firmer ground, and should ascribe 
these clearances to some time before 1100 in Aquitaine and in the Iberian zone, 
but also along the Saone-Rhone valley and in Poitou and Flanders. At the 
beginning of the twelfth century, the same processes reached Italy, northern 
France, the Harz mountains, the Hochwald, Franconia and, on the other side 
of the Channel, the Weald, Sussex and East Anglia. The assault must first have 
been directed at thickets, and then at areas which could well have been tilled 
several centuries before, and finally, but only through the use of horse and 
plough, at the heavier land. 

I ought also to mention two other aspects of the process which, though 
marginal, are in the end more spectacular. Although virtually nothing is known 
of the economy of the mountain areas, the conquest of the precipitous and 
gullied slopes of the Mediterranean zones must date from these centuries. It 
was an endeavour of Titanesque proportions to have created terraces supported 
by low walls, trenches for draining away water, and vineyards, olive groves and 
millet fields on th tgradoni or lunettes mentioned after the 1050s from Catalonia 
to Sicily. 

This same period saw the rational exploitation of fluviatile terraces, which 
had long been held to be of no use, but which could sustain grazing, arboricul- 
ture and the growing of legumes on stony, waterlogged soil. Floodplains had 
been drained (the Ligurian bonifache date from 1090), and the dangerously 
unpredictable behaviour of rivers had been brought under control. Mention 
should, for example, be made of the dikes on the Loire (Henry Plantagenet’s 
turcies’, around 1160), or those on the Po and the Arno, between 1160 and 1185. 
Numerous valleys, formerly judged to be both insalubrious and unproductive, 
were soon to have thriving villages, along the Saone, the Allier, the Main and 
the Inn. The salt-pans of the Camargue, of Romagna and of Bavaria were also 
brought under control between 1080 and 1160. Contemporaries were most 
impressed, however, by the reclamation of land from the sea. Given the scale 
of such enterprises, it was generally the rich who took them in hand, among 
them the count of Flanders, the abbots of Bourbourg and of Ramsey, and the 
bishops of Saintes and of Ely. Groups of peasants, in part fishermen and in 
part shepherds, assumed responsibility for the upkeep of the dikes [wateringen) , 
which isolated the drained fields, and for the supervision of the channels. The 
reclaimed fields, known as moeres or polders, were brought into use between 

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The rural economy and demographic growth 


1070 and 1160 in Flanders, in Aunis, in the Fens and around Ipswich, and new 
towns also sprang up, such as Nieuport, Gravelines and Bourgneuf, where salt 
was harvested, and sheep, raised on meadows still steeped in saltwater, were 
sold. It is reckoned that 300,000 hectares were reclaimed in the British Isles, 
half as much again on the Poitevin coast, twice as much again from the Aa to 
Friesland. One should also bear in mind that the general fall in sea level, which 
continued up until around 1180, was obviously very much to the advantage of 
coastal peoples. 

The end of the demesnial system 

Spectacular though they may have been, advances in tillage were but one 
aspect of the upheavals to which the rural areas of the west were subject in 
our period. It was in fact the drastic restructuring of the system of cultivation 
that would leave a lasting mark upon the peasant environment. I will consider 
the process in finer detail below, but here wish merely to note that it began 
in the late tenth century and gathered momentum between 1075 and 1175, its 
characteristic features finally bringing about the ruin of the old ‘system’ of the 
Carolingian period. 

To begin with, the market in real estate became very lively. This change was 
already discernible prior to 1075 in the area from Catalonia to Campania, but 
occurred somewhat later in the north (although this discrepancy may be due 
to the uneven nature of the sources). The documents suggest a rise in sales and 
exchanges, while the lexicon in use gradually altered, both in its reference to 
the portion remaining in the possession of the lord {villa came in time to mean 
an ‘agglomeration’, curtis an isolated farm), and in its assessment of the areas of 
land allotted (‘manor’ gave way to charruee or journal, etc.) . The second feature 
of the new system, although it might be more accurate to see it as a consequence 
of the first, was the juxtaposition of two trends which, in the context of a large 
demesne, had tended rather to be in conflict. To begin with, there was a large 
amount of commassation, or merging of fields, combined in the twelfth cen- 
tury, above all, with a restructuring of the most profitable elements, namely, 
tithes, mills, meadows and tonlieux. The church, on account of its archives, gives 
the appearance of leading this movement. St Emmeran of Regensburg owned 
1000 manor-houses, while the monastery of Monte Cassino had 80,000 has. 
Yet the laity must have acted in very much the same fashion. Thus, in Bavaria, 
the Falkensteins owned 2500 manor-houses. The regrouping around compact 
nuclei which occurred in Sabina, in Valles, in Flanders and in the Maconnais 
may have been a response to the conquest of fresh territory. Conversely, numer- 
ous demesnes indubitably underwent fragmentation, either because of changes 
in family structure or, more probably, because of a disenclosure arising out of 

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the removal of obstacles to the recovery of uncultivated land. Such obstacles 
had featured in 25 per cent of title deeds in tenth-century Catalonia, but the 
proportion fell to 8 per cent in the eleventh century, and to 1 per cent in the 
twelfth century. This trend was linked to the fate of fields without a powerful 
master, so that allods, which around the year 1000 or 1040 still accounted for 
30 to 50 per cent of territory, were very plainly in decline before 1150. Many 
years were to pass, however, before the allod was to disappear altogether, for 
the conquest of new territory in the twelfth century may well have lent it new 

Whether strengthened or not, large estates no longer presented the ‘classical’ 
profile familiar to us from the ninth and tenth centuries. The ‘reserve’ no longer 
relied upon prestations in services or kind made by tenants working individual 
plots. Regular labour services could hardly be sustained where the system of 
Villikation Verfassung with scattered demesnes was in operation (St Peter’s in 
Salzburg had, for example, sixty-two centres in forty-seven different territories); 
ties were slackened between the coutures, the condaminas, the mas doumencs and 
the corti of northern France, Catalonia, Languedoc and Italy, and the meix, the 
croadas, the casalia and the massae installed on the actual plots. This is without 
taking into account the ‘reserve’ plots, known throughout most of France as 
ansanges, accolae, ailes, ouches, courtils and masures, entities whose precise status 
is obscure and whose fate is painstakingly researched by specialists. Those 
fields that were the hardest to supervise were best divided up into plots, so 
that the reserve might then represent no more than 15 to 25 per cent of the 
surface area of the whole demesne, as was the case in, for example, Winchester, 
Regensburg, St Gall or Cluny. Yet here too one should be wary of supposing 
that it was doomed to disappear, for it consisted of the most profitable and 
most useful land. In this regard, one should note that the restitution of tithes, 
which had been usurped in the tenth century, and which the laity had begun to 
resell or else, in a spirit of genuine piety, to give, after 1050 (that is, before the 
pressure exerted upon them by the Gregorian Reform), would never amount 
to complete abandonment. Indeed, from 1200 onward, with income from 
capital in land tending to fall to around 7 or 8 per cent of gross income, it was 
becoming more lucrative to hold on to the 10 per cent which the tithe yielded, 
even at the risk of one’s salvation. 

Yet it was tenure that mattered the most, in the last resort, because it affected 
everyone and because it sustained everyday life. We have much better access to 
its history in this period than before, because of the proliferation of title deeds. 
Three crucial features bring out the essential nature of the process. First of all, 
notwithstanding the survival in, for example, Italy, of livello tenures larger than 
30 hectares, there was evidently a drop in size. Words such as manor , mas or hufe 
might well still feature in the documents, but they had shed their Carolingian 

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The rural economy and demographic growth 31 

connotations and tended simply to refer to a built-up plot. Their surface area 
had suffered a drastic reduction, so that they no longer measured 5 or 10 hectares 
but were a quarter, an eighth, or less, of that size. Lexical innovation reflected 
this change, with quartier, Vierteil, vergee and sorti expressing the fragmentation 
of the old manors, and with bovee, charruee and journal denoting the quantity 
of land that might be worked in the space of a single day. Such developments 
were especially apparent after 1140-60, and may be ascribed as much to the 
breakdown of family structure as to technological progress, which meant that 
fewer hectares were needed to provide for a household. This may be why the 
breakdown was less pronounced in southern zones which, from this time on, 
were overtaken by the dynamism of the north, where the tendency, evident 
since the ninth century, to form a ‘manor’ out of disconnected plots further 
hastened its demise. 

The second new feature, a consequence both of this embryonic fragmen- 
tation and of the relaxation of the previously close links with the reserve, was 
the collapse of services by arm or by plough. By 1100 or 1120, the lord had 
become well aware that such labour services were performed with ill will and 
on an irregular basis, or were even sabotaged. The buying back of such services 
would furnish him with money, which would fund his increasingly costly way 
of life or allow him to hire a more docile labour force. These developments 
did not proceed at a uniform pace. In southern Europe, where the system 
had never worked well, services dropped to a few days a year. In the Atlantic 
zones, or in northern France, the lord continued to demand three days’ labour 
services three or four times a year, especially when it was the time for pressing, 
ploughing, harvesting, grape-gathering or haymaking. In Germany, and above 
all in Normandy and in the British Isles, such demands were especially onerous. 
None the less, the emphasis tended everywhere to shift from the land which 
sustained them to the men who owed them, and, whether commuted or not, 
they were no longer strictly enforced. 

The third area of innovation was more complex, and concerned the rent paid 
on land divided into lots. Payments of a share of the harvested fruits, reflected 
in the proliferation of terms such as champart, agriere, tasca and quarta, and 
even, after 1200, when the proportion attained 50 per cent, mezzadria and 
metayage, were to the lord’s advantage, inasmuch as he might use them to 
make gifts, to reimburse his agents or to supply the local market, while they 
served at the same time to shield the tenant from the tragic consequences of 
freaks of nature. Besides, there were some products, eggs, poultry, olives and 
flax among them, which could not really be replaced by money. Yet it was 
towards this latter system that rent, or the cens, was tending to evolve, for 
money was becoming more and more necessary and more and more plentiful. 
Unfortunately, the amount was fixed by custom, and could not be altered 

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3 2 


without risk; after 1180 we do indeed find, in Burgundy, Bavaria and the 
Rhineland, ‘fractures’ imposed in order to promote commutation, but these 
were the exception. This is why masters relied instead upon the inflation of 
commutation rights, the heavy pretium of the Mediterranean livello contracts, 
the high entratura of the Iberian tenures, the Catalan pressura, the Aragonese 
escalio and the Languedocian apriso, although these forms would admittedly 
in the future develop in the direction of property. So it was that, after 1170 
or 1180, the resulting tension between masters and tenants was reflected in 
changes to the conditions governing the exploitation of the soil. In launching 
themselves, around 1180-90, into tenancies with revocable leases, abbeys such 
as St Denis and Glastonbury no doubt thought they had found a solution. 

Territorial diversity 

The reader will often have noted in the course of this survey that south and 
north, Atlantic littoral and central Europe, offer many contrasts in rhythm, in 
scale or even in the underlying causes determining the development of partic- 
ular systems for the cultivation of the soil. Even the villages themselves serve 
to exemplify such contrasts. Thus, in the Mediterranean zone, incastellamento 
functioned in such a way that, if you except a few isolated casalia, any zones to 
which access was difficult would be abandoned. Further north, on the other 
hand, in the British Isles and from Poitou to Bavaria, tillage was severely cir- 
cumscribed by the enclosed structure of the villages, which were burgi with 
a firma and a precinct or circuitus. Some old terrains, in Brittany or in the 
Auvergne, still featured dispersed houses or mas. In northern Europe, from the 
Seine to the Elbe, whether with or without a castle, agglomerations tended to 
sprawl and to swarm, often on virgin land, so that, even where written sources 
are plentiful, one cannot ever hope to define the precise configuration of the 
plots of land. 

With regard to the latter, one may only distinguish a few more or less general 
features for the period in question. The first, crucial point is that the territory 
would indeed seem at this stage to have been well provided with the network 
of rural roads required by the villagers if they were to master it. Proof of this is 
supplied by the fact that boundaries of plots or of sections of land no longer 
referred to the names of men but rather to semitae, that is, ruae, running 
from one point, often topographic or toponymic, to another. Of course, the 
Roman thoroughfares, still identified correctly by scribes (as, for example, via 
publica, strata, via calceata), served as uncontested points of reference, but it 
would certainly be going too far to regard the grid of ancient centuriation, even 
where it had held firm (as in Italy and Languedoc), as the still intact framework 
for land tenure. 

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A second feature concerns the grouping of a quantity of plots in homoge- 
neous blocs, which were known as delles, cantons, furlongs etc., and which either 
referred to manors later subdivided, or else were the outcome of a deliberate 
process of regrouping associated with the introduction of new agricultural tech- 
niques, to be discussed shortly, deployed by the community as a whole. We are, 
however, quite unable to provide a satisfactory explanation, at any rate during 
this period, for the fairly clear-cut distinction between fields with recombined 
plots {quaderni, aiole) and long strips. There remains the problem posed by the 
enclosure of ploughed land which, in the case of vines, olives or arboriculture 
on river banks, seems self-evident. Once again, however, from this period there 
is evidence only of the temporary enclosure of recently tilled fields, probably 
so as to protect them from straying livestock. Yet permanent hedges certainly 
existed, for example in central Spain, in Frisia, in the Weald and the Highlands 
of Scotland, in Brittany, and in many mountain zones. Generally speaking, 
one may account for them in terms of the concern to isolate cereal-growing 
plots situated in the middle of heaths or meadows grazed, on a regular basis, 
by herds, but one cannot therefore necessarily regard them as prefigurations of 
boscage, which is only known with any certainty in the fourteenth century. 

Finally, I would add that, on the fringes of the Christian world of the tenth 
century, numerous territories were gradually subsumed within what became, 
by the same token, ‘Europe’, and this was by no means the least significant 
aspect of the conquest of the soil which illuminated the century and a half 
surveyed here. This ‘expansion’ was accompanied, especially in the south and 
in the middle of the continent, by military and political phenomena which are 
not my concern here, but the reader will readily understand that the capture of 
such territories, whether virgin or not, posed some problems, and that a word 
or two should be devoted to them. 

The issues were simplest in the case of Scandinavia, since there the terrain 
was forested or covered with tundra, inhabited by breeders of reindeer or Lap 
fishers, who were by no means numerous and who were gradually driven back 
towards the Arctic. However, small groups of foresters, in fact very belated 
converts to Christianity, were moving northwards, and must have adopted 
quasi-colonial’ systems of planting, involving joint enclosures or dorps, with 
distribution and redistribution of family plots, known as boels, and all this 
without any interference from a master or a lord. Such freedom of manoeuvre, 
in what was a sort of ‘Far North’, was to have a lasting impact upon the 
Nordic system, even after 1140 or 1160, when the German example began to 
weigh heavily upon the peninsula. Indeed, German colonisation was to the 
detriment, not of harmless pastoralists, but of substantial groups of Poles, 
Czechs and Croats. These populations were well organised, in large villages 
whose agriculture did not yet - that is, around 1050-80 - involve the cultivation 

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of very precisely defined territories, and this fact was very probably to the 
advantage of the Drang nach Osten, when it entered its most intense phase, 
in the twelfth century. If one excepts the creation of the Baltic towns, which 
are not my concern here, one will allow that the process of occupation of 
virgin soil, and latterly of land occupied once the Slavs had been expelled, 
assumed a resolutely annexationist quality. When a palisaded village had been 
built, immigrants would be summoned, to live under the firm authority of the 
Schultheiss, or leader of the group. Plots, or hufen, would be allocated according 
to the customs prevailing in most of Germany, and Germanic law would hold 
sway. Neither in Silesia, nor in Carinthia, nor in Moravia, nor in Brandenburg 
was there any intermingling with the local population, which on occasion 
was resettled upon ‘reservations’, as in Lusatia or, in the thirteenth century, 
in Pomerania. Such attitudes obviously gave cause for some hostility between 
Slavs and Germans. 

The case of Spain is quite different, especially if one calls a halt to one’s 
study around 1200, and therefore before the Christians recovered the east of 
the country and Andalusia, which were far more densely populated than was 
the central meseta. Indeed, as the soldier-farmers or pastoralists from Leon or 
Catalonia gradually moved down - perhaps flanked by immigrants from, for 
the most part, the south-west of France - from the Asturias or the Pyrenees to 
as far as the Sierra Nevada, the territories they seized were somewhat infertile 
and sparsely populated but already very familiar to them, owing to the regular 
and well-established circuits of transhumance. Thus, the characteristic features 
of the Reconquista, at any rate in the domain which concerns me here, were 
first of all an extreme tolerance and an attempt at fusion between the defeated 
mudejars, who remained Muslim, and the caballeros villenos, Spaniards who 
were ever armed for the Conquest but who were none the less farmers and 
shepherds. Secondly, the freedoms granted to the peasants, to all the peas- 
ants - whether francos from the north, serranos from the mountains, Jews or 
Berbers - came earlier here than anywhere else in Europe. Indeed, the fueros 
began early in the eleventh century, a hundred years before the north of France. 
In reoccupied territory, the proportion of allods would therefore be high. As 
for the pobladores, who were responsible for setting up new quarters or even 
whole villages, they tended to use agreements with the subject populations, so 
that each Christian aide a and each Muslim alqueira, whether in partnership or 
not, would redistribute the plots of land to be cultivated. So perfect a solution 
was obviously made possible by the sheer extent of land that was still virgin or 
that had up until then been given over to grazing. By contrast, the Christians 
of northern Spain had been so isolated during the first centuries of their exis- 
tence, between the eighth and eleventh centuries, on account of the indifference 

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The rural economy and demographic growth 


shown to them by the Carolingians and their successors, and indeed by the 
church, that they preserved an archaic, almost pre-Carolingian system of land 
tenure, with clearly defined smallholdings and the most exiguous of domanial 
claims. It is true, however, that the strife-torn mood of the times, sustained by 
the struggle against Islam, would alone have justified such a system. 

It would thus seem to be the case that, even allowing for the many features 
that were common to the various agrarian systems, a shared inheritance which 
fully justifies our use of the notion of Europe for the period in question, regional 
diversity resulted in something more sharply defined than mere nuances. To 
account for such variety, one need merely invoke the genius of this or that 
people, the nature or the objectives of its government, the social conditions 
affecting relations between men. If one were to take into account varieties 
of soil, climatic constraints or commercial relations, the study of agriculture 
would itself reveal contrasts of equivalent weight. 


However significant the Carolingian period - defined in the broadest sense as 
extending from the early eighth century to the end of the ninth century, or 
indeed somewhat later - may have been, no one would dispute that Europe’s 
agricultural take-off occurred at some point after the year 1000 and continued, 
even if punctuated by some periods of stasis or even regression, up to the 
sixteenth century. It is all the more surprising to find that this surge was not 
characterised by a proliferation of agronomic precepts. You merely have to 
peruse the capitulary de villis, the letters of Lupus of Ferrieres or the Statutes 
of Adalard of Corbie, to see what an abundance of practical advice and of 
references to Varro, Columella or Palladius the ninth century could boast, but 
it was not until well into the thirteenth century that well-ordered theories, 
propounded in Walter of Henley’s Husbandry, and in Fleta, could again be 
found. This is once again to refer to England alone. Prior to this time, one has 
the sense of groping in the dark, of undertaking research in terms of isolated 
examples, and there seems to be little concern to organise knowledge, as if any 
notion of potential progress was an altogether secondary matter. The objection 
may fairly be made that there were current in northern France a number of 
distichs attributed, wrongly as it happens, to Cato the Elder, and which were 
known as ‘chatonnets’, but which seem in fact to have been collections of 
maxims. It was not until around 1120 or 1150 that a reasoned curiosity regarding 
economic questions was in evidence. Thus, the monk Theophilus described a 
number of different techniques, Abbot Suger vaunted his skill at agricultural 
management, the Cistercians plainly espoused, by virtue of their own Rule, a 

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3 6 


‘political economy’, the sire de Rohan concerned himself with the quality of 
his studs, and yet there were still no standard texts to consult. 

The problem of waste land 

Cereals may well be the main feature of the rural economy in regions charac- 
terised by a sedentary mode of existence and yet, as we saw above, by no means 
all the soil in Europe was given over to the production of grain. Waste land 
formed part of the landscape, surrounded the cleared and cultivated fields, 
and remained an enduring preoccupation. We have already noted how large a 
part it played in the rural economy. Since waste land provided vital sustenance 
when other sources failed, it is only right that we look at it first. 

As I observed above, our understanding of diet is severely restricted by our 
limited knowledge of the contribution made by natural vegetable products. 
Gathering, on a scale that is impossible to estimate, provided fruits, berries, 
roots, herbs and salads, cabbages and honey from the hive, once peasants had 
the ‘use’ of wood or scrub. None the less, the lord might keep for himself, or 
charge a prohibitively high price for access to, the olives or the acorns. Likewise, 
in the case of hunting, it is impossible to say what contribution to diet was 
made by rabbits, by hares caught in traps, by partridges, ducks, pheasants or 
many other birds captured in nets or with bird-lime, or indeed by running 
animals brought down by arrows, such as roe-deer, chamois or fallow deer. Of 
course, large game, such as wild boar, stags, bears and wolves could only be 
hunted with packs and huntsmen armed by the lord. Yet when there was a 
beat aimed at eradicating pests, commoners and lord would join forces, even 
entering for this purpose the garennes, the spinneys ( brogilum ) and the plouy 
(ploiacuni), which were in principle exclusively reserved for the lord. 

Although historians know relatively little about the gathering of foodstuffs 
from waste land, they are much better informed about timber, owing to the 
copious documentation of villagers’ rights of use or grubbing contracts. This 
is because vast quantities of wood were consumed, for building, burning, and 
making tools and bowls, and for constructing strongholds, palisades, boats, 
millwheels and cartwheels. The middle ages were the ‘age of wood’, even 
where stone rivalled it, for it was also needed for frames, trusses or coffering. 
Advances in iron tools, discussed below, in axes and saws (long sawing scarcely 
predates the thirteenth century), and the development of hoods and chimneys 
made it possible to burn trunks and large branches; the increasing demand for 
tools of every kind fostered an assault on tall-growing trees, from the highly 
dense oak to the beech with its long fibres, the soft and fast-growing conifer, 
or the chestnut tree impervious to damp conditions or to vermin. This also 
explains why lords kept the best stocks for their own use, in particular the 

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oak, the king of trees, the clandestine assault upon which might at times cost 
a life. From a fairly early date, the risks of a merely haphazard exploitation 
would seem to have been appreciated. Thus, texts from noo or 1120 in Italy, 
and rigorous Cistercian prescriptions between 1135 and 1190, introduced the 
notion of regular felling, of the ‘placing under guard’ ( aforestatio ) of cantons 
in course of regeneration, and of regular surveillance by guards, known in 
different regions as gruarii, forestarii, saltan or verdarii. 

One ought not to neglect, however, the third role played by the waste land, 
upon which the medieval economy in the last instance depended. The un- 
dergrowth was rich in shoots, herbs and berries, often in sufficient quantities 
to feed livestock. Stockbreeding was one of the cornerstones of the medieval 
economy, yet it was often impossible to reserve for it a part of the already 
cleared territory, since the latter would be entirely given over to agriculture. 
Free grazing in the forest was the simplest solution to the problem, especially in 
the case of pigs, which could forage for food there, and which would regularly 
interbreed with wild boar. Cows and horses, however, risked incurring injuries, 
straying or being attacked by wolves. One had, moreover, to round them up, 
whether for milking or for breeding. As for sheep, and the goats which in- 
variably accompanied them, their capacity to inflict damage was so great that 
they were very soon debarred from the woods. Demographic increase, and the 
development of pack-animals, whether saddled or yoked, exerted considerable 
pressure upon natural resources. The numbers involved by the time of Domes- 
day Book, for example, were apparently already high, namely, 40,000 sheep, 
20,000 pigs, 5000 bovines and 2000 horses. In the bishopric of Ely, the increase 
in the number of heads, taking all the different species into account, was 30 
per cent between 1080 and 1125, rising again to 40 per cent in the period up 
to 1180. The prices paid for animals would themselves seem to have reflected 
a growing demand. Thus, in the twelfth century, the price of sheep rose by a 
half, that of cattle doubled, and that of horses tripled. As demographic pressure 
increased, more and more land had to be set aside for cereals, and less and less 
surplus land could be preserved in the woods. What then was to be done? 

To begin with, numerous regions indubitably escaped this vicious circle. 
Thus, in the mountains, but also in the underpopulated hills, whether in 
Germany around the River Elbe, in northern England or in Brittany, grazing 
continued to be extensive and yet farming was not therefore obstructed. The 
movement of Alpine populations from the valleys to the higher pastures, for 
which there is evidence in the sources from the beginning of the twelfth century, 
was reflected in transhumance patterns at the turn of the seasons, and over long 
distances, from stables and sheepfolds to the inhabited zones of the hermes or 
the causses. The passage of manades or bacades consisting of thousands of heads 
of livestock, with the various species mixed up together, did of course cause 

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damage, and therefore lawsuits. For example, in Aquitaine, Dauphine, Pouille 
and Castile, mounted guards had to be supplied, and obligatory routes were 
marked out, drailles or cannadas, evidence for which dates from 1090-1120, 
but there was as yet nothing to match the intense conflicts of the fourteenth 
century. Finally, the ‘salt meadows’ reclaimed from the sea in Flanders, Norfolk 
or Aunis, and the marshes of the Roman Campagna, Romagna or Provence, 
left soil which could not be planted with corn to sheep and buffalo. 

Elsewhere, indeed in the majority of regions, there is no stable and general 
solution perceptible in the period under review. Shepherds, at great risk to 
themselves, accompanied their grazing flocks; yet the latter had to be brought 
back to the village for a part of the year, sometimes every day if milking was to be 
done. Stabling, or stabbiatura, had therefore to be developed, and this required 
both space and time. In winter, one had to feed the animals, and therefore to 
identify fallow meadows which would not be cultivated, and which would be 
costly to maintain. This accounts for the general willingness to undertake the 
haymaking labour services for the lord. Given the fact that, as I explain below, 
common land was especially abundant prior to 1200, one may readily discern 
a solution to the problem, but it was not to be realised until the end of the 
twelfth century. 

It is obviously somewhat artificial to add a passing reference here to the 
question of fishing. Yet this too was an economic sector, whose contribution 
to ordinary diet cannot be properly estimated, which was subject to strict 
customary regulation, and which remains a highly obscure area for historians. 
We are none the less concerned here with uncultivated areas in which fish 
could be taken from rivers, pools or fish-ponds, and though we know for 
certain that they were consumed, we do not know which species were caught, 
or how. Deepwater fish are more familiar to us, and there were fisher-peasants 
in Brittany, in the Bay of Biscay, in Provence, in the Adriatic and around the 
northern seas. Yet in reality more is known of trade, of the fishmarkets in towns 
or on boats, than of the fish that might appear - or of the condition they might 
be in - in the village marketplace. 

The empire of grain 

Grain was the chief conquest of protohistoric times. It provided the basis for 
bread, which was at once a staple food and the main eucharistic ‘species’ for 
Christians. It would be naive to imagine that there were crucial changes, or 
botanical novelties, within the century and a half surveyed here. Archaeology 
and in particular palynology, and the excavation of night-soil dumps, tell us 
something, but texts tend to prove disappointing, if only because of uncertain- 
ties regarding terms used by scribes, who were men of the pen rather than of the 

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The rural economy and demographic growth 


plough. What, for example, does bladum mean? What was meteil, a mixture of 
rye and wheat? What were the ‘small corns’, and where did they grow? Given 
these obscurities, I will restrict myself to a general survey. 

White flour, with its delicate taste, was not the sole preserve of lords, although 
the claim is often made. It was a question of soil as much as of taste, and white 
bread or girdle-cakes also featured on peasant tables in the sedimentary regions 
of north-western Europe. Yet what was this flour? Triticum, the speltum (or 
spelt) of antiquity, thick-stalked and without a beard, would seem to have 
receded after the year 1000, save in Italy. Since it gummed up the mills, it 
yielded to bearded frumentum, which was lighter but which exhausted the 
soil. Barley, which reigned supreme in Mediterranean antiquity, continued 
to furnish the basic elements for barley beer and for gruels [polenta), and it 
also provided a nourishing food for bovines, but it could not survive harsh 
winters. Oats, on the other hand, which had come into favour along with the 
horse, flourished in clear, damp soils; it could also be sown in March. We have 
evidence for the progress it had already made in the ninth century, in southern 
Europe, and it reached the north between 1040 and 1130. It was also fit for 
human consumption, as gruel (porridge or gaumelle ) or as decoctions akin to 
beer. In the case of rye, the ‘indomitable cereal of the poor’, we have to do 
with a crop which will grow even on stony soil, which survives frost or damp, 
and which has persisted across the centuries as a last recourse when all rival 
foodstuffs faltered. Its flour is grey and bitter in taste, but its ubiquity testifies 
to its importance in Europe. The use throughout the Mediterranean area and 
even up to the Loire of millet, panic grass and farm, all of which are derivatives 
of sorghum, may be said to reflect a capacity to accept substitutes or a curiosity 
about unfamiliar forms. 

The land belonging to the village, especially prior to 1200, was by no means 
merely a sea of grain. Peas, vetches, lentils and some species of bean could well 
have been sown in open fields and gathered at harvest time, the tendrils of these 
legumes often coiling along the stems, which would be cut high up. However, 
these foodstuffs, which would be added to cabbage soups, were hard to digest. It 
is crucial, therefore, to undertake research into the preconditions, presumably 
established around 1130-50, for cultivation in the immediate vicinity of houses, 
on plains ( viridaria ), in enclosures on hills grazed by livestock ( orticelli ), on the 
terraces of southern Europe ( orts , huertas), along fluviatile terraces ( ferraginalia , 
rivagia ), or on the alluvial deposits of marshy zones ( hortillons , hardines). Once 
released from the burden of grain-growing, these terrains might be planted with 
cash crops or used to supply artisans with flax and hemp, or with woad and 
pastel, which yielded every shade of blue. Surviving texts leave us in no doubt 
that activities which flourished in the thirteenth century were first established 
around this time. In Italy, Picardy and Flanders, a ‘rural industry of this kind 

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arose in the middle of the twelfth century. In addition, victuals from the forest 
began, at the same moment and in the same places, to be found close to the 
village. Garlic, onions and peppers, whose calorific content and richness in 
proteins could make good the shortage of meat, were now grown in gardens, 
and the size of these plots testifies to their importance. 

The intrinsic interest of such a picture would of course be greatly increased 
if one could attain to a more exact understanding of the rhythm and volume of 
growth. For there was indeed some growth: even, for example, over the twenty 
years which, in Domesday Book, separate the passage of the inquisitors from 
what was the case ‘in the time of King Edward’, there was discernible in the 
counties of Lincoln, Suffolk and elsewhere an increase in implements or live- 
stock. Scattered allusions to a harvest, to the garnering of a specified size of crop, 
or to a quantity of seed enable us to mark out the average level of returns, al- 
though precise volumes elude us. Thus, in Brescia, around the year 1000, wheat 
yielded three to four for each grain sown; in Cluny, in the middle of the twelfth 
century, the yield was plainly over five, while in Picardy, in 1200, it had reached 
six or seven, a ratio that would be achieved in England in the thirteenth cen- 
tury. One could engage in lengthy discussions regarding ‘Carolingian’ yields, 
but it would be a pointless exercise, for progress stares one in the face. 

Now at last we come to the symbol of an advanced agriculture. Being a sign 
of life, pleasure and conviviality since antiquity, and in addition the second 
eucharistic species, wine and vine serve to express social superiority. Long the 
preserve of lords, the vineyard became, from the tenth century at the latest, a 
peasant concern. ‘Drinking one’s own wine’ became the quintessential sign of 
social success. From the beginning of the twelfth century, there is evidence for 
the high price of wine on the local market, for the lord’s right to sell off his old 
wine before that of the villagers ( hanvin ), for the role of wine in international 
trade, and there is a whole literature in which it is the hero. To own one’s own 
vineyard became a common aspiration, and numerous Italian contracts of hire, 
even in fields also planted with, for example, olives, stipulated future rights 
of access to the property. One should note, however, that the symbolic value 
of viticulture far outweighed its economic importance. Thus, Islam deprived 
itself of this resource and did not suffer overmuch as a consequence. Work in 
vineyards was arduous, the yield vulnerable to the caprice of the elements, the 
quality of the winemaking extremely low and the final result aleatory. 

Towards a mastery of techniques 

Progress could not be the product merely of a more clement climate, or of more 
dynamic men. Some contribution of a technological nature was required, and I 
ought therefore to devote some space to it. It has been argued that the perfecting 

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The rural economy and demographic growth 41 

of techniques, even in the domain of agriculture, must have played a primary 
role. It is in fact clear that the preparation of the soil went beyond the level 
advocated by the agronomists of antiquity, but we are not able to specify the 
origin, date or immediate effects of any innovations. We know from scrutiny 
of the soil, for example at Wharram Percy (Yorkshire), that in the twelfth 
century there indubitably was spreading of manure, systematic marling and 
the scattering of household refuse on the land, or at any rate on the fields of 
the richest men or upon those that lay closest to the houses. There was very 
probably an increase in the number of methods, beginning with an attack 
with the hoe, followed by digging over the soil, a third tillage ( terciage ) with 
animals or even once again by hand in the case of the poorest, and, finally, 
harrowing after sowing. Evidence for the latter practice may be found in the 
Bayeux Tapestry (around 1090), but also at the same date in Winchester, Cluny 
and Brescia. 

Obviously the tool for ploughing comes to mind here, and I have already 
alluded to this crucial but obscure problem. It is rendered still more obscure 
by the imprecision of the scribes, who were anyway in general incompetent, 
and who would use the term aratrum for every tool used for tillage. Besides, 
recent research has established that, for the majority of peasants, manual labour 
must have played the dominant role prior to 1200. There is still much debate 
as to the rival performances of the light, mobile swing-plough, well adapted 
to the dry soils of southern Europe, and of the plough, with its mouldboard 
turning the sod over to one side of the furrow, but, for the period surveyed 
here, the prevailing view is that both tools were used, depending on the men 
who might be using them or on the nature of the soil. We find this diversity 
in almost every county of eleventh-century England. This would be still truer 
of harnessing. Thus, in twelfth-century England, one tilled with six or eight 
oxen in twenty-four counties, and with horses and oxen combined in seven 
counties. The ox, being reputed to be more powerful and economical, remained 
dominant in Castile, Sabina, Burgundy and Bavaria. The horse gradually came 
to prevail, however, throughout the Paris basin, and in freshly cleared, heavy 
fields, where oxen could do little. One should also note the possible connection 
between modes of ploughing and types of land tenure. Thus, in the twelfth 
century, cross-ploughing with furrows intersecting at right angles, which was 
only possible where there were compact plots, was still the predominant form 
and, even where ploughing in elongated strips began to feature, it is hard to see 
how it would be easier to turn a team of eight oxen than a team of four horses. 
The differing efficacy of the two animal species in fact rested upon factors 
operative more or less at this level. Practices of rational harnessing, which 
alone made it possible to deploy all the muscular strength of the animals, with 
shoulder harnesses or front yokes, may well have existed in the twelfth century, 

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if we accept the evidence from the Bayeux Tapestry, from Gerona or from a 
host of other iconographic sources, but here too we lack precise information 
regarding both their origin and the rate at which they spread. The same is true, 
of course, of horse shoes, which archaeologists are unable to date. They feature 
as early as the eighth century, but were not yet in general use in the twelfth 
century, if tonlieu tariffs are a reliable indication in this regard. 

Progress in agricultural methods, a more effective use of animal strength 
and the deployment of more powerful ploughing tools offered, after 1050, an 
at least partial response to demographic pressure. If I deem it to be no more 
than partial, it is because rises in population did in fact give rise to regular 
famines. On the other hand, the search for new land to cultivate, recovered 
from waste land, made it still more difficult to find a balance between grain 
and livestock, as I noted above. The solution, albeit in the short term, to this 
difficulty was to bring herds back on to the plough land, to reserve a portion of 
it for them, which they would manure with their dejections while at the same 
time feeding off the aftermath and off the natural herbage. The soil, being 
both rested and enriched, would then be better able to bear a resumption of 
ploughing, and the improved quality of the harvests would compensate for any 
losses incurred through having let a part of the territory lie fallow. This system 
was linked to the practice of sowing in spring cereals which were known as 
March cereals, oats in particular, and which would grow in the course of three 
months. One had to divide up the field into strips, which would in turn be 
sown with wheat and with oats, and would then lie fallow, or with some other 
formula obeying the same principle. We can clearly discern every aspect of 
this highly profitable arrangement, namely, general agreement between those 
involved; reorganisation of the fields into plots which were, if possible, compact, 
in order to facilitate grazing of fallow land (right of common); regular rotation 
between the soles, royes, cantons, furlongs, etc. of equal size; problems faced 
by tenants possessing a single plot and therefore condemned to harvesting 
nothing in their fallow year. Since all of these factors had to be taken into 
account, it is manifestly absurd to believe that so perfect a system could have 
been in existence in Charlemagne’s time. A few of the larger abbeys, admittedly, 
to judge by the evidence from the polyptychs, practised double sowing and 
laying land fallow. Yet even in the twelfth century, many regions, especially in 
southern Europe, clung to the practice of letting the soil rest for several years, 
or to that of simply moving the zones to be ploughed across a territory. The 
first intimations of genuine crop rotation date from 1140-60, in the Paris basin 
and the Low Countries. Once again, such endeavours often only affected the 
fields of one particular lord. The generalisation or at any rate the extension 
of the process dates from the second quarter of the thirteenth century, at the 

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The rural economy and demographic growth 


Over a century ago, Marx propounded the hypothesis that the watermill was 
the soul of ‘feudalism’. There is indeed no denying that such mills constituted 
a major element in agricultural progress, and in seigneurial domination. I have 
already mentioned the rise to prominence of the watermill, not in fact in 
antiquity, when it was not known, but from the eighth and ninth centuries. 
By bringing to bear water, either running or impelled by means of a race, tree 
trunks and wheels, lead pinions, iron hooping and millstones, the apparatus 
indeed seemed to constitute a point of convergence between technologies, some 
of which were Graeco-Roman and others Germanic, but all necessitating such 
a large outlay that, if one excepts a handful of collectively administered village 
mills in Catalonia, they must surely have been set up by a lord. This gave him 
an obvious technological superiority over his villagers, whether in the milling 
of his grain, olives, nuts or bark, the fulling of his cloth or the stamping 
of his iron. It is possible to reconstruct the rise of mill-building with some 
accuracy. Thus, the Domesday Book mentions over 5600, or around one to 
every three villages, whereas from 1080 to 1125, in Catalonia, the Toulousain and 
northern France, the number of mills tallied with that of the villages, and would 
shortly overtake it. Now mills, setting aside their secondary but by no means 
negligeable importance in providing fish-ponds through the damming of water 
above the sluice-gates and the race, served to accelerate a considerable number 
of agricultural projects. As a consequence, by 1120 or at most a very short time 
later, obligatory use of the machine was accepted both by the peasants, whose 
saved time was indeed worth a few pennies, and by the lord, who could, in 
charging milling dues, recoup his expenses, increase his control over peasant 
production and fill his granaries and his coffers. Those unable to pay would 
continue to grind their grain at home, and so lose time and, ultimately, social 

Although the peasants were not troubled by the ubiquity of the mill - or, 
indeed, of the press-house, but evidence on this is lacking prior to 1200 - 
disputes were precipitated by the deeds of the miller who was suspected of 
giving short measure. Such men were very often objects of hatred. This was not 
the case with the smith, however, who had been at the centre of the village since 
the eleventh century, and who also had the lord for a client. His mastery of iron, 
fashioned in the fire, enabled him to forge the axes, coulters, ploughshares and 
scythes which sustained agricultural expansion. His work was made possible 
in its turn by iron-smelting which, from the mine to the bellows, underwent 
its first crucial advance. From 950, in the Pyrenees, Franconia, Saxony and 
Bohemia, around 1000 in Britain, for example in Yorkshire, and in 1050 around 
Burgundy and in Lorraine, the improvement in methods of extraction and the 
spread of low furnaces led to the production of irons, or even (albeit often by 
chance) steels of so high a quality that tool-making underwent a thoroughgoing 

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reform. Mills for hammering iron existed in central Germany as early as 1010, 
and the proliferation of forges in villages was evident after 1050. From 1080 to 
1130 iron-making flourished in western and northern France, in the Rhineland 
and in Lombardy. The explosion of Cistercian iron-working, from the forest 
of Othe to Lincoln, from Languedoc to Westphalia, after 1150, would impart 
a quasi-‘industriaf quality to this complement to agricultural progress. 

It would be illuminating to know something of the quarries, and of the 
cutting and transportation of stone, of the brick-kilns and tileries, and even of 
the potteries. The sheer number of potsherds, fragments or ovens unearthed 
by archaeologists testifies to the importance of such activities, but neither 
techniques nor scale nor turnover are really accessible to researchers before 
the thirteenth century. Much the same might be said of village joinery and 
carpentry, of stud-work or of frames, of wattling or of hop-poles. The whole of 
this artisanal sector, as reflected in the general economic progress of the twelfth 
century and in what survives of tools and buildings, could only be represented 
by listing a series of work ‘gangs’. But in a village anyone might turn his hand 
to anything. We know that it took thirty men a week to enclose a hectare, 
and from two to fifty men to raise a mound; that salt circulated from the 
Channel or from the Mediterranean, and that the Cistercians often acted to 
guarantee this trade; that wool was spun in every village, and even woven, prior 
to 1150, in Champagne, Tuscany and Lombardy; that the linen of Germany and 
of Champagne reached the east; that tanning and even paper mills appeared 
between 1140 and 1170 in Languedoc and in the lie de France; and that, from 
the ninth century on, breweries, or cambae, were everywhere. These scattered 
items of information constitute the sole glimmers in an area of knowledge that 
is otherwise disappointingly obscure. 

Local markets 

A ninth-century capitulary stipulated the holding of a market every fortnight 
in the village but, as so often in this period, we know more of intentions than of 
reality. However, the resale on the spot of any excess in foodstuffs by the lord, 
and the surplus got by the richer members of the community, could well have 
fuelled exchanges within a very circumscribed area. It is less easy to judge what 
part was played in such exchanges by artisans who were, so to speak, wild, and 
who plied their trade in forests, as iron beaters, basket-makers, joiners or simply 
hermits, of whom there were many in the eleventh century. On the other hand, 
the archaeological evidence implies that production in domestic workshops, 
the genicia or small workshops serving a large estate, plainly went into decline 
in the tenth and eleventh centuries, and artisanal concerns run by single families 
consequently flourished. Treatises such as the Ortus deliciarum of Herrad of 

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The rural economy and demographic growth 


Landsberg, dating from later than 1180, constitute a sort of encyclopedia of 
the domestic science and technology which, in this period, made possible a 
production that was at once larger in scale and higher in quality. In addition, 
the development (mentioned above) of highways complemented the progress 
made in harnessing. Whether with two, or with a single axle iguadriga, biga ), 
whether with or without shoeing, wagons went past the toll-houses, for whose 
tariffs we have some record in England, northern France and Lombardy, prior 
to 1020 or 1050. As for river traffic, flat-bottomed barges of several dozen tons 
(, lembi , naviculi, chalani) could penetrate deep into the countryside. 

So it was that in the country market, known as the foro or the mercadel 
and held in the bailey of the castle, or even in the cemetery, there was a brisk 
trade in poultry or eggs, in bales of wool or hides, in baskets or in crockery, 
perhaps in barrels, and certainly in blankets ( queutes ). This did not amount to 
a ‘commercial revolution’ in the village, however, since everything else had to 
be obtained in the towns, where there was a revival in fairs, covered markets 
and booths, although these lie outside the scope of the present chapter. Yet, in 
one crucial respect, the two circuits of exchange were akin, for in both barter 
or payment in kind was giving way to cash. 

Prior to 1170— 1200, the role of money in the countryside is hard to discern. 
Where, however, the master met the expense of a project, the matter is brutally 
clear. Thus, a watermill was reckoned to cost 300 pounds tournois, a fortified 
tower perhaps 2000. The building of a church in stone, of which there are 
examples in Catalonia and in northern France around 1200, would require 
5000 pounds. For the construction of Cluny III, at the dawn of the twelfth 
century, the monks had to pay 2000 pounds in salaries for a period of twelve 
years. The laity were not spared such burdens either. Thus, the Flemish budget 
for 1187, the Gros brief, devoted 30 per cent of the county’s expenditure to 
building and to repairs. The sums spent on the purchase of real estate were 
equally surprising. Cluny spent 1000 locally minted pounds between 1090 and 
1120; St Amand spent 4000 from 1140 to 1190; St Victor of Marseilles spent 

15.000 between 1170 and 1210. The tiny Priory of Hesdin, in France, spent 
450 pounds in the space of twenty years. One could quote many instances of 
large-scale expenditure, sometimes on luxury items (1000 pounds on fine wines 
at Cluny, in 1122), sometimes on charity (such as the 3000 pounds distributed 
on a monthly basis by St Trond, in 1070), and sometimes on war (such as the 

50.000 pounds sterling reckoned to have been raised for Richard the Lionheart’s 
expedition to Acre). 

All of this poses something of a problem, for it is hard to see how we will 
ever discover the precise source of such large sums of money. It cannot have 
been the mines, whether in Saxony, in the Tyrol, in Asturia, in Yorkshire or in 
Poitou. White metal was struck in the form of small coin which around 1200 

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4 6 


contained roughly between 1.2 and 1.8 grams of metal; devaluation, debasing 
and monetary crisis date from no earlier than 1210, and possibly from later. This 
money must have passed through peasant hands, since it was they, obviously, 
who manned the hired work-gangs mentioned above. We should also take into 
account alms and the offerings of the laity, fines imposed by the courts (there 
is mention of 4000 pounds sterling in Yorkshire around 1170), taxes replacing 
the ost or the labour services, the increasing part played by cash in the leasing 
of land, and the taille as well. These all represent paths by which money may 
well have passed into seigneurial hands, but they do not solve the problem 
addressed here. The arrival of money into the huts of the peasantry, even if it 
did not linger there, was a phenomenon of crucial importance in the economic 
history of Europe, and it gathered speed between 1050 and 1175. Moreover, the 
village market is the only plausible point of arrival for such funds, given the 
sale of peasant produce either to itinerant merchants or to lords themselves 
having cash through the regular exploitation of disposable wealth, through 
resold tithes, lotted woodlands, raids upon religious communities or, finally, 
through expeditions to distant places. There is thus no doubting the fact that 
the incipient movement of money through the villages coincided with the 
Iberian algarades and the Franco-Italian crusades. The years from 1050 to 1190 
may indeed have been ‘an age of great progress’, as I noted at the start of this 

For a deeper understanding of the interlocking phenomena of the years 
between 1050 and 1190, one would obviously need to turn one’s attention to 
the towns, to long-distance exchanges, to the various social strata, and to both 
their spiritual and their economic interrelations. In the areas surveyed here, 
sometimes in utter disregard of a precise chronology, one should above all bear 
in mind that the constitutive elements of Christian Europe were established 
after the Carolingian experiment, and after the agonies of the tenth and early 
eleventh centuries. For at least a hundred years, as institutions of peace re- 
covered ground in the Mediterranean, the reclassification of men and of their 
routine activities kept Europe in a state of difficult, sometimes even revolu- 
tionary gestation. Yet the twelfth century was an age of increasing calm, of 
incipient detente, even of ‘normalisation’. Christian society, and the ‘medieval 
economy’, were in good working order. 

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Derek Keene 

The two centuries that opened with the decline of Cordoba and closed with 
the sack of Constantinople in 1204 were ones of vigorous development in 
European commerce and urban life. Change was apparent throughout a ter- 
ritory measuring some 4000 km from the Volga to Ireland by some 3200 km 
from Scandinavia to the southern shores of the Mediterranean, which was 
characterised by a wide range in material conditions and in the forms of urban 
culture inherited from earlier times. Local variation was considerable, but there 
is much to be gained from considering the phenomenon as a whole, despite 
the fissures artificially imposed by subsequent national and historiographical 
traditions. Moreover, the towns and trade of Europe were in this as in other 
periods subject to strong influences from outside: from the Middle East and 
North Africa, and from trading networks which fed into those regions from 
much further away. 

During the eleventh and twelfth centuries most of Europe was distinctly 
backward and peripheral by comparison with areas south of the Mediterranean 
and in the Middle East, which were highly commercialised and urbanised and 
under Muslim control. This was an important influence on patterns of trade, 
and it was to be half a millennium before that relationship was conclusively 
reversed. Nevertheless, at the beginning of the period most parts of Europe 
were urbanised to some degree, in that they contained settlements which we 
can describe as towns, where there were relatively large numbers of inhabi- 
tants dwelling in close proximity and making a living predominantly from 
specialised crafts, exchange and other services rather than from agriculture. 
Many such places were also distinctive as seats of authority and were imbued 
with a recognised, though often borrowed or inherited, ideology of civic life. 
These settlements varied greatly in size, degree of specialisation, infrastructure 
and density of distribution. Modern historians are inconsistent in their use 
of the criteria which might define a town. Moreover, the evidence for such 


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identifying features in this period is often obscure or lacking. Comparison, 
therefore, is no straightforward matter. 

In Italy and in France south of the Loire there was some continuity from 
antiquity: many towns had survived as administrative and ecclesiastical centres 
and some were lively centres of commerce. Further north functional continu- 
ity was rare, but many towns now prospered on, or in association with, the 
reused sites of Roman towns or fortifications. In England, from the later ninth 
century onwards royal policies of establishing fortified centres of refuge and 
of regulating trade and moneying had promoted a new pattern of urbanisa- 
tion, including towns on new sites. From the tenth century imperial policy 
in Germany promoted the foundation of new markets and mints in associ- 
ation with abbeys and royal centres. This was most notable in Saxony, but 
the Rhine continued to mark a divide between a territory distinguished for 
its money economy and for its substantial towns, many of them with Roman 
antecedents, and the less commercially developed lands to the north and east. 
In many regions, including central Europe, princely and seigneurial fortifica- 
tions had attracted mercantile and craft settlements, or were set up to con- 
trol them. These were commonly situated on important river routes. Princely 
control played a major role in assuring their competitiveness and continuity. 
Terms denoting fortification and enclosure, such as burgus, burh and civitas 
(the last not restricted to places of Roman origin or to episcopal towns) were 
coming to be common indicators of urban status. The burgus was often a de- 
fended extension to an existing town, and townsmen were known as burgenses. 
Imperial, royal and ecclesiastical initiatives had recently promoted some cities, 
including Magdeburg, Regensburg and Winchester, as seats of authority and 
ceremony - cities of great churches, palaces and luxury consumption as well 
as of crafts and trade - while Pavia, as capital of the Lombard kings, had a 
longer tradition in that role. Trading centres were prospering on the north- 
ern and southern shores of the Baltic and in Gotland, while the activities of 
the Scandinavian raiders and merchants had contributed to urban growth in 
the west, as at Dublin and York, and in the east as at Novgorod and Kiev. The 
distinctive characteristics of many northern towns are apparent in the Arabic 
relation of the Spanish Jew, Ibrahim ben Ya'qub, in the 960s: the size of the 
trading settlement of Schleswig, where they lived mostly on fish; the use of 
peat fuel at the big town of Utrecht; trading customs in the great international 
market at Prague; and the long-distance, luxury trade at Mainz. 1 

Cities also shaped European views of the world. Jerusalem, the focus of 
faith, was cartographically at the centre. Rome, the seat of Latin Christianity, 
also embodied deep-rooted ideas concerning secular order and authority. Both 

1 Miquel, ‘L’ Europe occidentale’. 

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Towns and the growth of trade 


cities were powerful attractions to pilgrims, and elsewhere pilgrimage was a 
stimulus to town economies. Throughout the eleventh and twelfth centuries 
Constantinople, which in this period perhaps regained its sixth-century peak 
of some 400,000 inhabitants, was by far the most impressive city in Europe, for 
its size, walls, churches, wealth, manufactures, markets and great assembly of 
traders from all parts, as well as for its imperial court, palaces and bureaucracy. 
Up to the collapse of the caliphate in the early eleventh century Cordoba pro- 
vided another powerful model of the capital city as the expression of civilised 
life, sustained by military might and cash and experienced by many Christians 
from the north. Even with the political fragmentation of Andalusia, the smaller 
cities of the taifa rulers continued to impress. Increasingly, Cairo - with fortifi- 
cations, palaces and religious buildings, commercial, industrial and residential 
districts spreading along the Nile, tall tenement blocks, and its outport at 
Alexandria, which itself offered one of the most splendid urban landscapes 
of the Mediterranean region - would have attracted European attention as a 
scene of magnificence, power and trade, unrivalled except perhaps by Con- 
stantinople. For Latin Christians, even in Italy where the idea of the city as 
the organising principle of life was most deeply embedded, such places would 
have been on the far horizon at the limits of their experience. 

Human and material resources were unevenly distributed in ways which 
influenced urbanisation and trade. The greatest differences were between east 
and west. If western Europe can be characterised as densely populated (al- 
though much less so than at its medieval peak around 1300), then in central 
Europe the population was sparse, while in the east it was much sparser still. 
There were two distinctive core areas for urban growth: northern Italy and the 
territories bordering the southern part of the North Sea and the English Chan- 
nel and extending up the Rhine. Contemporaries perceived these differences 
and their expression in material culture. Otto of Freising commented on the 
wretchedness of the towns and villages of the Hungarians and on the barbarity 
and relative lack of agriculture beyond the Oder. 2 On the western periphery, 
Giraldus Cambreasis remarked on the healthy conditions in Ireland, which 
lacked the silks, gems, precious metals and spices of the east. 3 In such con- 
ditions settlements, which might be perceived as urban - by contemporaries 
or by modern archaeologists and historians - could vary widely in character. 
Thus in about 1200 in England, not a highly urbanised part of Europe, there 
were about 230 towns, of which perhaps twenty to twenty-five each contained 
5000 or more inhabitants. The larger territory represented by modern France 
perhaps contained about thirty towns with 5000 or more inhabitants, with a 

2 Otto of Freising, The Deeds of Frederick Barbarossa , pp. 66, 175. 

3 Giraldus Cambrensis, Topographia Hibernica, in Opera, RS 21/5 (1867), pp. 68-73. 

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greater urban density north of the Loire. In the even larger territory of Poland 
there are said to have been 250 towns, of which the great majority were no more 
than 5 ha in extent. This is a surface area that in England would have been 
small even for the smallest of small towns: Woodstock, founded between 1154 
and 1175 as an appurtenance to a royal residence in the countryside near the 
substantial town of Oxford, occupied 16 ha. This was a common size for 
English small towns of the period, although the well-known new town of 
Freiburg im Breisgau, founded by the dukes of Zahringen in 1120, initially 
covered no more than 5 ha. In England many predominantly agricultural vil- 
lages were larger, including some of the new, planned settlements of the twelfth 
century. A distinctive feature of the Polish towns was their defensive enclosures, 
reflecting the untamed character of the landscape in which they lay. In the even 
larger territory of Russia there were perhaps 140 towns, of which about eighty 
occupied no more than 2.5 ha and only eight can be deemed substantial. 
Uncertain though these figures are, they demonstrate real differences in the 
prevailing characteristics of towns. At the same time they highlight problems 
of definition and comparison. A small town in England, France or Italy would 
count as a large one in central or eastern Europe. Conversely, the emergence of 
nucleated rural settlements in some parts of the west at this time could perhaps 
be seen as part of a wider process of developing urbanisation and exchange 
manipulated by lordship. These ‘villages’ perhaps occupied the lowest position 
in a developing ‘urban’ hierarchy. 

Measurement and counting are tools essential for understanding these pro- 
cesses, as in the twelfth century they were becoming essential to managing 
them, but few reliable measures are available. From the mid-twelfth century 
the Genoese notarial records begin to supply some quantitative measures on 
certain patterns of trade, otherwise we rely on largely incidental indications of 
the movement of people and commodities. A few records of urban property 
holding and land values provide important benchmarks for some towns. Other 
more scattered records can be used to provide composite pictures. Archaeology 
and the study of material goods, including coins, provide ever more valuable 
indicators of the scale and complexity of urban life and of patterns of trade, 
but provide only small and unevenly distributed samples. Contemporaries have 
sometimes left statistics, some useful but many rhetorical. Not until around 
1300 are there fiscal and other records which might inform the calculation 
of urban populations. Yet these calculations are uncertain and influenced by 
discrete historiographical traditions. Thus, reasonable estimates for the popu- 
lations of three of the greatest European cities in 1300 - London, Milan and 
Paris - vary by up to 100 per cent. 

The most robust indicator of town size and growth in this period is the extent 
of the urban enclosure. The phase of dramatic rural, urban and commercial 

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Towns and the growth of trade 


growth which began in Italy in the tenth century, between the Loire and 
the Rhine in the late tenth and eleventh, and further north and east from 
the later eleventh and twelfth centuries onwards is above all apparent in the 
physical expansion of towns and in the enlargement of their defences. There 
is, however, no straightforward correlation between the size of a town’s circuit 
and its population or wealth. Town walls were often inherited from earlier 
periods rather than a direct reflection of the present size of the town. In Italy 
and England, for example, the late Roman circuits, still in use or being reused 
in 1000, were larger than their equivalents in Gaul. In some regions town 
walls were more of a defensive necessity than in others. Many early defences, 
built of earth and timber rather than stone, remain undefined. Extramural 
settlement often represented a large proportion of the town area, but may not 
be well recorded. Within built-up areas the density ofhousingvaried greatly and 
some towns built higher and more solidly than others. Nevertheless, there are 
some dramatic indications of urban expansion. Colognes walled enclosure was 
extended from 122 to 223 ha in 1106, and with the wall begun in 1180 to 403 ha. 
At Bologna the Torresotti walls of the late twelfth century enclosed too ha, 
four times the area of the preceding, fifth-century circuit. In the very different 
conditions of Midland England, Northampton experienced an almost equal 
degree of expansion from its tenth-century circuit to one enclosing about 100 
ha. Over the twelfth century Arezzo enlarged its defended area from 17 to 42 ha; 
Florence enlarged its threefold to 75 ha; and Pisa’s expanded from 30 to 114 ha 
after 1162. At Genoa, however, the defended area grew from 22 ha about 1150 to 
no more than 52 ha in 1200. Bristol, a vigorous commercial town and regional 
centre with much maritime trade, grew from practically nothing in the tenth 
century to an enclosed area of some 64 ha by the late twelfth, yet it can hardly 
have rivalled Genoa as a centre of business. London found its Roman circuit, 
within which the business heart of the city had been established since the late 
ninth century, to be sufficient for defence. It enclosed 134 ha, and was still not 
fully built up by 1200. By that date, however, ribbon developments beyond the 
gates were already extensive and the extramural jurisdiction had been extended 
to include them, making 259 ha in all. The modest but commercially prosperous 
Thames-side town of Wallingford was still contained within the 45 ha of the 
defensive circuit established c. 900, but Oxford, its better-situated rival upriver, 
over the same period enlarged its enclosure from about 24 to 36 ha. 

Some of the most dramatic rates of measurable physical growth occurred 
in newly commercialising and industrialising areas where the nucleus of the 
town was a seigneurial fortification. Douai, for example, expanded from 6 ha 
within the tenth-century comital enclosure to 48 ha within the twelfth-century 
wall. Bruges grew from 2 ha within the ninth-century castrum, enlarged under 
comital patronage in the tenth century by the addition of 5 ha for the craft 

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and commercial settlement later known as Oudberg (‘old enclosure’), to 76 ha 
within the wall which existed by about 1127. Comparable growth at Ghent was 
even more striking. At Arras, the walls of the Roman castrum enclosed 11 ha, but 
seem to have contained little other than a church until the establishment of the 
bishopric there in 1093. Early growth took place around the famous abbey of St 
Vaast on the other side of the river, where there was also a royal, later comital, 
residence and a small commercial settlement, all within an enclosure of about 
8 ha in 1000. Rapid growth followed around this core and at the beginning of 
the twelfth century the count of Flanders enclosed the abbey settlement within 
a wall encompassing 100 ha, some of them occupied by gardens. 

Tracking numbers of towns indicates a similar picture, although with the 
problem of distinguishing between towns and villages. In Russia between 1150 
and 1200 the number of small towns increased from about fifty to eighty. In 
Germany the number of commercial settlements rose from about ninety in ad 
1000, to 140 in 1100 and to 250 by 1200. In England the comparable totals 
were about seventy, 130 and 230. Of the top twenty English towns in 1200 
the five which had achieved that position since 1000 were all ports, and the 
counties with the highest proportions of towns appearing for the first time in 
the same period were all on the northern and western periphery. Urbanisation 
here was stimulated by sea-borne trade and progressed from the commercialised 
south-east towards the north-west. 

Areas and a few population estimates provide some sense of the relative scale 
of the larger European cities at the end of the twelfth century. Constantinople 
enclosed an area of 2400 ha, not entirely built over. Rome’s walls enclosed 
1200 ha, but much of that area was now deserted and the city was inhabited 
by no more than 30,000 persons. Thessaloniki’s walls enclosed 350 ha. The 
extent of Cologne’s walled circuit was outstanding by comparison with other 
western cities. At Paris the wall of Philip Augustus, constructed between 1190 
and 1208, enclosed 273 ha, an area similar to that covered by London and its 
contiguous suburbs beyond the formal city jurisdiction. In the next rank by 
area was Milan, with 200 ha. Important centres covering between too and 
150 ha included Bologna, Strasbourg, Pisa, Siena, Toulouse, Metz and Arras. 
Ghent and Bruges may have been larger. Montpellier, Lille and Goslar covered 
around 80 ha, Barcelona 60 ha, and Bordeaux no more than 50 ha. A few 
Russian cities were strikingly large: Smolensk and Kiev enclosed 90 and 70 ha, 
respectively, and at Galich on the river Dniester the ramparts included about 
50 ha. Such places stood out in scatters of much smaller towns. Where urban 
networks were denser, as in the west and in Italy, the gradation in size was more 

What about the size of urban populations? According to one argument, 
Milan had a population of 90,000 in 1200, a total that more than doubled by 

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Towns and the growth of trade 


1300. 4 Venice perhaps had 80,000 in 1200. Probably neither city was as large 
as Cordoba had been two centuries earlier. There are good reasons to believe 
a view expressed about 1200 that London housed 40,000 souls. 5 In 1100 it 
had perhaps housed 20,000 or more. Several indicators, including numbers 
of parish churches and the payment of royal dues, suggest that at that time 
London was twice the size and more than twice as wealthy as English cities in the 
next rank, Norwich, Winchester and York. From 1100 onwards the differential 
between London and provincial centres increased. Paris in 1200 had perhaps 
only just begun to overtake London. In this context the traditional estimate for 
Cologne’s peak population before the Black Death of some 40,000 inhabitants 
seems small, even for 1200. Likewise, some accepted estimates for major but 
second-ranking northern Italian cities seem low. They include the calculation 
that in 1200 Pisa had 12,000 to 15,000 inhabitants: comparison by area suggests 
that might be too small and higher estimates have been made. Florence, on the 
other hand, has been estimated at 30,000 souls, but was probably smaller than 
Pisa. A recent estimate gives the rapidly growing commercial city of Barcelona 
some 10,000 inhabitants in 1200. Some southern cities were certainly populous. 
Naples, a ducal capital and the focus of local trade for a fertile region perhaps 
had 30,000 inhabitants. Palermo, capital of the kingdom of Sicily and famous 
for its palaces, churches, extensive suburbs, trade, crafts, water supply and 
gardens, is often said to have had the same number, but both may have been 
much larger. The leading Russian cities were probably very populous. Kiev has 
been estimated as having around 25,000 inhabitants. We are a long way from 
reconciling localised guesses and producing a convincing view of European 
cities as a whole. 

The most fundamental stimulus to urban and commercial growth was that of 
rural development and population increase. This generated surpluses which in 
this period were transformed into more broad-based economic growth, espe- 
cially in those regions where great estates fragmented, allowing freer movement 
of labour and crafts and more spontaneous market development. Some of the 
areas of densest rural settlement, including the upper Po valley and Flanders, 
were those of greatest urban growth. The correlation, however, was not always 
straightforward, and other factors were involved. Initially, Picardy was more 
densely settled than Flanders, but the towns of the latter took the lead on ac- 
count of their industry and their better situation for commerce. Nevertheless, 
the basis of most towns’ prosperity, and proportionally more so with the smaller 
ones, was interaction with the immediate hinterland. Barcelona’s eleventh- 
century growth was based largely on its economic and political relationship 

4 Racine (1984). 5 Peter of Blois, Epistolae, no. 151; Keene (1989). 

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with its hinterland. Not until the mid-twelfth century did long-distance trade 
begin to contribute significantly to its prosperity. Town populations could 
only be sustained, let alone increased, by flows of people from the countryside. 
Personal names incorporating place-names reveal these migration fields, and 
hence zones of intensive interaction between town and country. Thus the in- 
habitants of twelfth-century Winchester, a city of some 10,000 people, seem to 
have come predominantly from within a radius of 40 km, while the scatter of 
more distant places suggests commercial and political links as well as migration. 
Similar information for French and Italian towns indicates catchment areas in 
proportion. Cologne’s catchment area in the twelfth century was notably large, 
as befitted a large commercial centre with extensive river-borne trade. In 1181 
the city was such an attraction to one young man, who preferred life as a shop- 
keeper to tilling the soil, that he considered selling rents charged on his land so 
as to finance his move. Winchesters political importance accounted for much 
of its prosperity and size, for it did not lie in a densely populated countryside. 
By contrast, the large and complex city of Norwich emerged spontaneously (so 
far as we can tell) in the tenth and eleventh centuries in the heart of one of the 
most densely populated areas of England and, in relative isolation from lesser 
centres, has dominated its region ever since. Milan similarly was the focus of a 
densely populated part of Lombardy, where both rural and urban land values 
were soaring around 1000, but it also drew on its ancient standing as an impe- 
rial and Christian capital, on the authority of its archbishop, and on its control 
of trans-Alpine routes to the north. Moreover, with the political fragmentation 
of the kingdom of Italy Pavia lost its former attraction as a centre of business 
and Milan gained ground as the regional centre. Another model of a town 
set within a densely populated territory is provided by the episcopal city of 
Laon, which was not large in the twelfth century (it was probably smaller than 
Norwich), but lay in what has been characterised as an ‘urbanised countryside’ 
devoted to the intensive cultivation of the vine. 

The interaction between local resources and lordship shaped patterns of 
urban growth, especially for small towns. Devolution of authority to the no- 
bility, or simply their growing wealth and avarice, promoted the construction 
of castles or other fortifications which became the foci for settlement and sites 
of trade. Many villages and small towns, in Italy as well as in northern, central 
and eastern Europe, originated in that way. The lord allocated land for building 
and provided the physical and legal protection, which, together with produce 
for sale and a demand for craft services, stimulated the market. Kings did the 
same in the estates they controlled. A market town, with or without a for- 
tification, could immediately increase seigneurial income and promote more 
intensive exploitation of the land. The local expression of these relationships 
varied widely. Many of the Italian castelli were enclosures under the collective 

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Towns and the growth of trade 


control of their inhabitants, in contrast to the castle towns of the north where 
the lord’s stronghold often dominated the townsmen. At Freiburg im Breisgau 
a marketplace was set up near the ducal castle, merchants were summoned and 
formed a sworn association with the founder, and each newcomer was given a 
plot of land upon which to build a house, for which rent was to be paid. The 
twelfth-century origins of the somewhat larger English town of Banbury have 
less narrative clarity, but involved the creation, or reorganisation, of a market 
adjoining a new castle established by the bishop of Lincoln as the administra- 
tive centre for his scattered estates in the region. The bishop, whose city lay 
far away, probably chose the site for its strategic and economic significance, 
since it lay on the main road leading north from Oxford, a route which had 
recently come to prominence in the exercise of royal power. Some powerful 
castles themselves would have contained enough soldiers and other inhabitants 
to be equivalent to a small town. In parts of Bohemia, Poland and Hungary 
villages surrounding the military strongpoint provided craft services to it, but 
by the twelfth century it was becoming common for craftsmen to settle, or be 
settled, within a suburb adjoining the fortification itself. 

The case of twelfth-century Ltibeck provides a rare insight into the com- 
plexities of such developments, and their relationship to earlier settlements and 
centres of authority. The town lay in a district well placed for Baltic and inland 
trade, where rival Slav leaders struggled for control on the margin between 
Germany and Denmark. An old Slav fort on the River Trave contained two 
churches and a small settlement of artisans and Saxon merchants. Following 
unsuccessful attempts to base a Christian mission there, the place was destroyed 
in a local war of 1138. The duke of Saxony restored peace to the area, and under 
him the count of Holstein established control, summoning settlers from the 
Low Countries and Westphalia to till the soil. The count also established a town 
a short distance upstream from the old one on a site associated with another 
Slav fort. The new town, to which the name Liibeck was transferred, prospered 
and attracted people from the duke’s trading settlement of Bardowick to the 
west beyond the Elbe, and by promoting its local saltworks diminished the 
ducal income from those at Ltineburg. The count resisted the duke’s demand 
for a share in the new town. Following the destruction of Liibeck by fire in 
1157, the count refused to give up the site to the duke, who set up another 
town in the vicinity, but on a site less suited for shipping and defence. Even- 
tually, the count resigned Liibeck and its fort to the duke. The merchants 
returned joyfully. The duke now offered peace and protection to traders from 
Scandinavia and Russia, established a coinage and tolls, granted rights to the 
citizens, and in 1160 transferred to Liibeck the seat of the diocese formerly based 
at Oldenburg. The archaeology of Liibeck reveals some activity in this period 
near the fort, but indicates that the main focus of business was on the river 

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5 6 


frontage: the great marketplace uphill from the river, the later focus of civic 
life, was a subsequent development. As part of the extensive territory ruled by 
the powerful duke of Saxony, Liibeck became a major centre of long-distance 
transit trade as well as a regional market centre. 

Even more than castles, monasteries could be seen as quasi-towns, with an 
elaborate formal order and dependent communities of administrators, mer- 
chants and artisans. Thus Ibrahim ben Ya'qub described the great monastery 
of Fulda as an immense town of stone where entry was forbidden to women. 
The system of transferring tribute and food rents to monasteries, from some- 
times distant estates, promoted networks of transport and exchange. As more 
general patterns of movement and commerce evolved, the dependence of the 
traders associated with the monastery diminished, and the market town at the 
monastery gate, but primarily serving local needs, emerged. Where monaster- 
ies were gathered together within a city, and when more distant monasteries 
(as well as secular landlords of similar standing) owned blocks of land and 
residences there, as was common throughout the period, the stimulus to in- 
dependent trade and urban growth was greater. But the degree to which the 
artisans or traders who occupied the houses on those urban estates supplied 
their landlords’ needs is often unclear. At Strasbourg in the 1140s the bishop 
still reserved services and products from the craftsmen in his city, but this seems 
exceptional for the date. Elite supply systems, such as food rents, could con- 
tinue to bypass local markets into the thirteenth century and beyond, even in 
highly commercialised environments. Some monasteries continued to engage 
directly in trade. Thus in the early twelfth century, the monks of Canterbury, 
no mean city for independent commerce, acquired freedom from toll across 
the sea at Wissant, probably in connection with buying Marquise stone for the 
cathedral. A description in 1086 of the small town of Bury at the gate of the 
great English abbey of St Edmund reveals the ambiguous standing of small 
monastic towns. Either a new town had appeared, or the enlargement of the 
church had displaced an existing settlement. In the new houses (probably ar- 
ranged around the grid of streets and the marketplace apparent in later plans) 
there were seventy-five bakers, brewers, tailors, washerwomen, shoemakers, 
robe-makers or furriers {parmentarii ) , cooks, porters and stewards, ‘who all 
daily wait on the saint, the abbot and the brethren’. In addition there were 
thirteen reeves ( prepositi ) in charge of the abbey lands who had their houses in 
the town, and thirty-four milites . 6 How much of that activity was spontaneous 
and how much directly organised by the abbey is difficult to say. 

Towns also articulated systems of rule over extensive territories: they could 
house and feed assemblies and provide crowds to acclaim the king. In Germany 

6 Domesday Book 11, p. 372. 

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Towns and the growth of trade 


Mainz, Regensburg and Magdeburg played a part in imperial progresses, but 
the delegation of authority to bishops, the preference of emperors for palaces on 
their own lands, and their use of abbeys (some of which offered better supply 
systems than the undeveloped towns) complicated the relationship between 
imperial authority and cities. Barbarossa, however, saw towns as appropriate 
sites for the exercise of rule and elevated several palaces, including Ulm where 
he stayed often, to the status of cities. In Italy, by contrast, cities progressively 
excluded imperial authority as their size and sense of identity grew. In England 
during the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries great churches at Gloucester, 
London and Winchester were the sites of seasonal crown wearings. From the 
mid-eleventh century the dukes of Normandy developed Caen as a ceremonial 
and administrative capital with a residence and a pair of abbeys, but later spent 
more time in the larger and wealthier commercial city of Rouen. Likewise, as 
kings of England, they were increasingly attracted to London rather than to 
the traditional seat of authority in Winchester. London, however, remained 
predominantly commercial and only gradually attracted the functions of a 
capital, the physical expressions of which came to occupy a peripheral location 
at Westminster. In Paris, by contrast, the palace was at the centre and the city 
was the prime focus of the monarch’s territorial interests. 

Princely residence and attendance at assemblies injected a good deal of 
wealth into eleventh- and twelfth-century towns. In Cologne officials and 
members of other landowning families from the diocese were drawn to the city 
by administrative responsibilities and attendance on the archbishop. Similar 
groups operated in Barcelona and Toulouse under the count and in Milan 
under the archbishop. The property holders and occasional residents in early 
twelfth-century Winchester, the English royal and administrative centre, in- 
cluded lay and ecclesiastical magnates from throughout the kingdom and from 
Normandy and officials involved in royal government. Such people assembled 
cash revenues and produce in the city for transmission elsewhere and purchased 
goods in its shops and markets. By the late twelfth century that business was 
migrating to London. 

The idea of the capital city with monumental buildings had a wide appeal 
and there were dominant models to hand. In Poland in the mid-eleventh 
century King Casimir transferred the royal residence to Cracow, an important 
centre of trade since at least the tenth century, where there was a palisaded 
fortress containing a stone cathedral, and a suburb nearby. With the political 
fragmentation of Poland in the twelfth century Cracow failed as a seat of 
authority. Kiev was the capital of a vast state with many subordinate urban 
centres. Prince Vladimir (d. 1015) adopted Christianity and employed Greek 
masons to build there a church dedicated to the Mother of God. His son Jaroslav 
built a new church as the seat for the metropolitan away from the palace and 

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within a much enlarged defended area, thus shaping a Christian city on the 
model of Constantinople. This pattern was repeated in other Russian towns, 
probably employing the same teams of builders from Constantinople, while in 
the twelfth century the building of great churches of more or less standard types 
expressed both urban development and princely control. In Venice, Amalfi and 
Norman Palermo the transfer of fine materials, substantial artefacts and skilled 
craftsmen from the Byzantine world made important contributions to their 
standing as sites of authority and civility. 

These stimuli promoted the development of urban crafts. Exceptional doc- 
umentation for some northern Italian cities reveals craft specialisation from 
before the tenth century, especially in metal-working trades, while for north- 
ern Europe both archaeology and texts indicate specialisation at the smaller and 
less numerous urban sites, including the communities subordinate to monas- 
teries. There seems little doubt that specialised manufacturing increased rapidly 
from iooo and especially after noo, but to some extent that impression reflects 
the increased survival of documentation. Where more systematic comparison 
is possible, as in the case ofWinchester between the mid-eleventh and the mid- 
twelfth centuries, it is less clear that the total of named activities increased. On 
the other hand, there was a distinct change in the pattern of trades, with an 
increase of specialisation in certain sectors, especially the textile sector. 

The earlier recorded craft specialisms responded primarily to the daily needs 
of the town and its immediate territory. Iron-working was fundamental. Smiths 
and smiths’ streets were prominent from the tenth century onwards. Leather- 
making and leather-using crafts are also visible at this early date. By the twelfth 
century many shoemakers, among the most numerous of urban artisans, were 
identified in French and English towns by terms which alluded to Cordoba 
leather, which was especially suitable for shoes. Some leather from Cordoba 
certainly found its way to the north, but many of these shoemakers probably 
used locally made leather, which resembled the Iberian product and drew 
attention to their specialised skill and product by using the name. The supply 
and processing of food occupied a great deal of effort in medieval towns, and 
bakers and butchers were among the early obvious trades. Bakers were one 
of the vital links in the urban food chain, and may often, as later, have had 
interests in the grain mills that proliferated in the vicinity of growing towns. 
The practice of exploiting ovens as a source of seigneurial revenue, and the crises 
in food supply which accompanied the rapid expansion of towns, explain why 
town lords took a close interest in regulating both bakers and the grain trade. 

The iron and leather trades were important for building, transport, agricul- 
ture and the practice of other crafts, but were also essential for warfare and the 
exercise of power. Military demands did much to stimulate urban industry. 
Significantly, one of the three crafts in tenth-century Winchester indicated by 

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Towns and the growth of trade 


street names was that of the shieldmaker, who used leather, while the other 
two were tanning and butchery, occupying places in the same supply chain. 
Eleventh-century London had a reputation for its stock of hauberks, made of 
leather and iron. Elite patronage gave work to the goldsmith and the jeweller. 
In twelfth-century Kiev and Novgorod luxury crafts appear to have prolifer- 
ated and expanded their production, and there are signs that other products, 
especially of iron, were being made to more standardised forms in response 
to the growth of demand. Most of the enormous population of artisans in 
twelfth-century Kiev are thought to have lived within the compounds of the 
secular and spiritual elite, as may have been the case in western towns ear- 
lier. At Winchester, there are signs that the working of precious metals and 
copper alloy became less widespread within the city, perhaps as those crafts 
moved from an association with wealthy households to specialised workshops 
producing for a wider market. 

Textile finishers and those who made clothes are also prominent early in 
the period, but not manufacturers of textiles, who did not come to the fore 
among the named crafts in western European towns until the twelfth century. 
The emergence of male weavers presumably represents the shift of production 
from a predominantly domestic setting, where it was undertaken by women, 
to specialist workshops. The technological aspects of this change, the most 
important development in urban manufactures in northern Europe during the 
period, seem to have been significant but are not well understood. Women, 
however, commonly maintained a distinctive niche in this sector with their 
work on fine textiles and embroidery. They included the ‘noble matron’ in the 
city of London and her young female assistant who, according to a twelfth- 
century story, were meeting an urgent order for the countess of Gloucester. 
By working on a feast day the young woman consciously distinguished her- 
self from the ‘rustic multitude’, but in consequence was striken by disease . 7 
Women made many other fundamental contributions to sustaining town life, 
but remain largely invisible in the sources because their work was only partially 
commercialised. One aspect of their domestic activities which did spill over 
into the marketplace in this period was the brewing and selling of ale. Retailing 
and petty trading generally are likely to have been typical female activities, as 
at later dates. 

In the twelfth century the specialised craft came to occupy a more distinctive 
role in urban life than formerly, both as an aspect of personal and group identity 
and as part of the urban landscape. Craft groupings, like other forms of guild 
or association for mutual support, began to assume a political significance and 

7 Aelred of Rievaulx, Vita sancti Edwardi, cols. 409-10; The Life of King Edward Who Rests at 
Westminster , ed. Barlow pp. 157-8. 

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were capable of negotiating with rulers. Twelfth-century windows in Chartres 
cathedral depict a wide range of crafts, while at Piacenza the capitals in the 
cathedral begun in 1122 show dyers, skinners, wheelwrights, shoemakers and 
women carrying dough to bakers. Street names and evidence for the location 
of individual artisans reveal the dynamic processes of craft growth, and its 
association with appropriate environments and complex markets and chains 
of production. Of the fifteen main streets within the walls of Winchester 
in 1148, the principal one was simply known as ‘the market’ or ‘great street’, 
while certainly five and perhaps as many as eight of the others were named after 
specialised trades. By 1200 London contained at least twenty streets named after 
specialised crafts or commodities, of which six were concerned with foodstuffs. 

Some of the largest and most populous cities owed their standing to their 
handling of a transit trade and to their role as centres for collecting and redis- 
tributing goods. The great Russian cities were collection centres, most of them 
at the intersection of trans-continental routes. Mainz, with a much longer his- 
tory, occupied a similar position. Cologne gained a commanding position in the 
Rhine trade, served overland routes to the west and north-east, and also came to 
be an important market for the products of the Meuse valley. Rouen controlled 
the valuable wine trade of the Seine. This was the root of Rouen’s conflict with 
Paris, which, by virtue of the growing power of the French king and its position 
at the focus of a river network serving an increasingly prosperous hinterland, 
eventually prevailed. London, as in the Roman and early medieval periods, 
was a centre for inland distribution, which enjoyed exceptionally close con- 
tacts with river-based trading systems on the continent. Toulouse, as a centre 
of comital power at the junction of long-distance land routes in a pacified and 
rapidly developing countryside, stimulated traffic further down the Garonne. 
Piacenza has been characterised as an ‘innkeeping town’ serving traffic through 
the Alpine passes to and from Italy. 8 Amalfi, Venice, Pisa and Genoa, and later 
Montpellier and Marseilles, grew by transferring goods and money between the 
north and the wealthier and more commercialised south. Haithabu, Schleswig 
and then Liibeck, although not major centres of population in this period, 
came to the fore on account of their strategic position in trade between the 
Baltic and the North Sea. Similar considerations influenced the foundation 
and development of smaller towns. Many were established so as to capture 
passing trade and it was common for one town to take the business of another 
which was less favourably situated. 

Transfers of bullion and money, essentially an inter-urban trade, could be 
an important, though by no means an overriding, influence on urban pros- 
perity and patterns of trade. The flow of silver from the Harz mines in the 

8 Racine (1980), pp. 107-9. 

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Towns and the growth of trade 61 

later tenth and earlier eleventh centuries undoubtedly stimulated the trade 
of Cologne and south-east England and London, where overseas trade re- 
vived. Cologne silver also facilitated the establishment of mints and markets 
east of the Rhine and lubricated trade with the Baltic region and Poland. In 
the latter area silver tended to shift out of circulation into hoards, until the 
late eleventh century when local trading networks developed. Gold as well as 
slaves from across the Sahara brought business to the ports of the Maghreb, 
facilitating Mediterranean trade and attracting the interest of merchants from 
Europe. Barcelona’s eleventh-century prosperity was based partly on an inflow 
of gold and silver received from warring Muslim rulers to the south. When 
the establishment of Almoravid rule in the late eleventh century ended these 
payments the city endured several decades of recession. The impact of the more 
widespread contraction in the bullion supply which followed the exhaustion of 
the Harz mines is disputed, but seems not significantly to have interrupted the 
growth of European trade and towns, which presumably rested primarily on 
rural resources and population. Bullion and money were commodities which 
were eagerly sought out when available but for which substitutes could be 
found when necessary. In central and eastern Europe, where shortage of coin 
was most severe, there is widespread evidence for the use of token money, such 
as spindle whorls from Kiev, bundles of skins, and iron goods. In the west the 
increasingly common and standardised goods of long-distance trade such as 
wine, textiles and spices perhaps played a similar role. 

From the 1170s onwards there was another silver boom, supplied from mines 
in the Erz Gebirge, near Meissen. This too coincided with rapid and widespread 
commercial growth and was particularly important for lubricating trade with 
the Muslim areas of the Levant, where silver was in short supply. The new 
German silver was soon to be found at the Champagne fairs, and in Cologne, 
Flanders and England. Mint output at Cologne, in England and elsewhere 
increased sharply and the economy entered a new phase of monetisation. 
Close relations between London and Cologne in part rested on monetary 
connections. Silver minted for the counts of Champagne as Provins deniers 
circulated in Italy and were imitated there. The discoveries also encouraged 
the search for silver in Tuscany and the eastern Alps. They also prompted a 
distinctive phase of urbanisation. The margrave of Meissen became immensely 
rich and built walls round his towns. In a gold rush atmosphere miners flocked 
from the Harz (by then primarily a source of copper) to the village where the 
discovery was made, which soon came to be known as the ‘town of the Saxons’ 
and in 1185 was chartered as the new town of Freiburg. Small minting towns 
proliferated in the region. 

The varied pattern of minting reflected political and fiscal structures rather 
than the intensity of commercial life. Coinage was an urban activity and, as in 

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Scandinavia and central Europe, was sometimes adopted as an expression of 
princely status rather than for straightforward commercial reasons. Goldsmiths 
attained a prominent position in many towns on account of their role in the 
production and management of coinage, and moneyers, closely regulated by 
rulers, were members of the urban elite. In England and Germany the distribu- 
tion of mints reflected tenth-century royal policies of establishing networks of 
markets in what were in some respects virgin territories. The German minting 
rights came to be delegated, usually to bishops and abbeys. In England kings 
maintained a highly centralised control and the decline in the number of mints 
probably reflects both bullion shortage and the growing integration of the mar- 
ket network. In France minting passed into the control of local secular lords, 
although in the later twelfth century, as the king grew more powerful, there was 
a trend towards centralisation. In northern Italy, one of the most highly mone- 
tised areas of Europe, moneying was restricted to the long-established minting 
centres of Milan, Pavia, Lucca, Venice (where the mint fell into decay soon 
after noo) and Verona. Only in the mid-twelfth century did new mints under 
the control of towns begin to appear, evidence of political change as much as 
commercialisation. Siena owed much of its later prosperity as a financial centre 
to its mint and the imperial rights in local silver mines which the commune 
acquired from the marquess of Tuscany in 1180. Italy and Flanders, the most 
commercialised and urbanised regions of Europe, were both distinguished by 
the great variety of coin in circulation. 

Local exchange and the generation of wealth stimulated long-distance com- 
merce. A striking development from the beginning of the period, but especially 
from noo, was the acquisition, by negotiation or force, of rights by merchants 
from one city in other cities under different rulers. These rights included free- 
dom from tolls and sometimes the collective possession of a warehouse and 
lodgings, known in the south as the fondaco. Despite great differences in the 
scale and value of trade, these arrangements were fundamentally similar in the 
Baltic, North Sea and Mediterranean areas. 

Much long-distance trade continued to follow long-established routes, but 
there were important changes. Developments in the Islamic world were in- 
fluential. Changes in Iran and the Steppes diverted the trade in Indian and 
south-east Asian spices from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea and so made Egypt 
and the port of Alexandria a prime focus in Mediterranean trade. The innova- 
tive agriculture and industries of Muslim regions stimulated trade between the 
eastern and western Mediterranean in the eleventh century, and subsequently 
between south and north. Andalusia in particular acquired great wealth, ap- 
parent in its export of timber, fruits, oil and raw silk to Alexandria in return 
for linens and oriental luxuries, and in its gold brought from the south. By the 

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Towns and the growth of trade 


mid-twelfth century Almeria was renowned for its varied production of silk 
textiles and embroideries, succeeding an earlier reputation for brassware and 
iron. 9 In the busy commerce between Egypt and Andalusia, Sicily and Tunisia 
occupied a strategic position as sites of exchange and centres of production 
in their own right. Kairouan, at times the principal recipient of trans-Saharan 
gold and slaves, was the most important town in the Maghreb, and its port of 
al-Mahdia was a major centre of shipping, industry and wealth. 

In Russia these changes appear to have diminished the commerce between 
the Caspian and the Baltic and placed more emphasis on the axis between 
Kiev and Novgorod. An important demand for northern furs, lubricated by 
new supplies of silver, now developed in the west and promoted Baltic trade. 
Gotlanders played an important part in this exchange during the eleventh 
century, obtaining furs at Novgorod. Thus Visby became an important town, 
apparently one of the few in Scandinavia not serving primarily as the seat of 
a ruler. Before the mid-twelfth century, cloth from Ypres was being traded 
to Novgorod. German merchants were visiting Novgorod by 1200 and soon 
afterwards obtained privileges both there and at Visby. In the twelfth century 
the search for furs in the remote hinterlands of Novgorod developed trade in 
the upper Volga region, where Vladimir emerged as a busy town. Westerly and 
overland routes also became busier. The emergence of Galich in the twelfth 
century was associated with trade between the Black Sea and the Baltic along 
the Dniester and the Vistula. Regensburg was an important market for Russian 
furs and enjoyed close contacts with Kiev, where a Regensburg merchant was 
dwelling in 1179. Russian traders were also active further down the Danube as 
far as Esztergom. Salt from southern Poland was also a major item of trade to 
both east and west. Throughout Russia and Poland the urban network became 
denser, with small towns emerging as collecting and staging points. 

London regulations dating probably to about 1130 identify Regensburg as 
an important centre of trade, from which silks and precious stones from Con- 
stantinople were supplied, presumably via Venice. 10 The regulations associate 
Regensburg with Mainz, to which Regensburg goods were probably carried 
before being shipped down the Rhine to London. For Londoners, Mainz itself 
was a source of linens of several qualities. Further down the Rhine at Coblenz, a 
record of tolls reveals the extent of trade probably in the later eleventh century. 11 
From Flanders and the lowlands around the mouth of the Rhine came cheese 
and fish. The towns of the Meuse valley supplied brass goods and wine. Wine 
came the greatest distance: from Flanders and the mouth of the Rhine (where it 

9 Al-Idrisi, Description de I’Afrique et de I’Espagne, pp. 239-41. 

10 Bateson (1902), pp. 499-502. 

11 Hansisches Urkundenbuch 1, pp. 3-4; see Hess (1974) and Kolzer (1992). 

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was presumably derived from France), from Cologne, from the Moselle valley, 
from as far up the Rhine as Strasbourg, from Wurzburg on the Main, and from 
Regensburg. Zurich supplied copper. Cologne became the major distribution 
centre for the brass-working towns of the Meuse valley. In 1103 merchants 
of Licbge and Huy sold cloths and tin (the latter probably from England) in 
Cologne and passed through the city with copper from the Harz. 12 By 1171 the 
men of Dinant were firmly established in Cologne as dealers in brass goods. 
Merchants from towns of the Meuse valley and its hinterland (Huy, LRge and 
Nivelles) were already trading in London by c. 1000, when they perhaps sup- 
plied both metal goods and wine. At the same time ‘the men of the emperor’ 
enjoyed special trading privileges in London. In the twelfth century they were 
commonly described in London as ‘men of Lorraine’, playing a prominent role 
in the city’s wine trade and dealing in the commodities known as ‘mercery’, 
which included fine textiles and spices. They were succeeded by the men of 
Cologne, who in the 1170s, soon after they are first recorded in Ghent, ob- 
tained commercial privileges in London and possession of a guildhall there. 
This succession strikingly reflects the degree to which Cologne had emerged 
as a dominant centre in Rhenish trade, with an increased number of fairs 
and the capacity to restrict the activities of Flemish merchants in its region. 
Commercial relations between London and Cologne became especially close: 
English families lived in Cologne; English coins circulated both there and in 
Westphalia; and a man from London was a moneyer at Munster. 

The London toll record of c. 1000 also identifies the presence there of mer- 
chants from Rouen as suppliers of wine and the products of whaling. 13 By 1066 
they had their own site on the London waterfront, where there was a market in 
French wine. Flemish merchants from Flanders and Ponthieu were also active 
in London about 1000, as well as those from France and Normandy. Com- 
mercial interest was one reason why from 1103 onwards diplomatic relations 
between England and Flanders were close, and between 1155 and 1158 the men 
of St Omer acquired the right to trade freely and to occupy houses in London. 
Apart from strategic interests in common, there was a diverse trade between 
the two countries in which, during the twelfth century, the supply of English 
wool to the growing Flemish textile industry became increasingly important. 

Between the tenth and the late twelfth centuries a small number of Italian 
port cities played an increasingly dynamic role in Mediterranean trade, altering 
the pattern of exchange between east and west and strengthening the north- 
south axis in European commerce. There were several common factors in the 
success of these cities. Essential assets included their fleets and a capacity to 

12 Hansisches Urkundenbuch hi, pp. 385-6. 

13 Gesetze der Angelsachsen 1. pp. 232-5; Laws of the Kings of England, pp. 70-2. 

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Towns and the growth of trade 


control sea routes: Venice developed its shipping and naval strength by setting 
up its state-controlled Arsenal in 1104. Their situations on geographical and 
political margins enabled them to handle a transit trade in silks, spices and 
industrial materials such as alum and cotton from the wealthy Muslim and 
Byzantine markets, in exchange for primary materials such as timber, salt, iron 
(especially from Lombardy) and slaves, which were in short supply in the east. 
Their lack of productive hinterlands forced them into long-distance trade. 
Thus Amalfi became more prosperous than nearby Naples, which relied on 
exchange within its fertile territory and on its linen textile industry. The key 
to Amalfi’s early success was its close relations with Muslim centres of trade, 
probably including Andalusia and the ports of the Maghreb and Sicily, and 
certainly Cairo; Amalfitans were also active in Constantinople and Antioch, all 
by the early eleventh century. Despite being forcibly brought under Norman 
rule in 1073 and losing commercial advantages to northern cities, Amalfi was 
still an important focus of trade at the end of the twelfth century. 

A record of c. 1020 shows that merchants from Amalfi, Gaeta and Salerno, 
along with those from Venice, were already established in Pavia, to which they 
brought spices, silks and other luxuries and where they would find goods from 
beyond the Alps. 14 By this date Venice enjoyed favourable trading conditions 
in Constantinople and had established de facto control of Dalmatia and Adri- 
atic shipping. Its great wealth and its special relationship to Byzantium were 
expressed in the lavish rebuilding of its civic church of St Mark from about 
1050 and continued decoration of it during the twelfth century. About 1082, 
in return for their support against the Normans at Durres, the Venetians ac- 
quired extensive commercial privileges in Constantinople, including a quarter 
of their own, probably the first such district to be controlled by an Italian 
city. The Venetians obtained rights in the Holy Land in 1100, but their major 
acquisitions were in the ports that they helped to conquer, including a dis- 
trict within Acre and a third of Tyre. Even though the Christian conquest of 
Palestine seems to have caused a lasting setback to the size and wealth of its 
towns, such gains were important sources of income in their own right. For 
the Italians, whose interests there were largely confined to the ports, they made 
even more sense commercially as staging posts on the most efficient shipping 
routes between Venice, Constantinople, Alexandria and the Maghreb. The 
career of the seaman and merchant Romano Mairano between 1155 and 1190 
reveals how Venetians used this network. 15 He raised loans and shipped timber 
to Constantinople. Then as a ship-master he sailed between Constantinople, 
Smyrna, Acre and Alexandria, being absent from Venice for nine years. Later, 
as a sedentary ship-owner he borrowed and invested to finance trade between 

14 Honorantie civitatis Papie. 15 Heynen (1905); cf. Prawer (1980), pp. 221, 228. 

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Venice, Constantinople and Alexandria, organised a voyage from Alexandria 
to the Maghreb, and himself returned to sea in the Levant. By the mid-twelfth 
century Venice had also acquired footholds in Palermo and probably in Bari, 
long an important centre of shipping and so a focus of Venetian attention. The 
division of spoils between Venice and the Latin emperor of Constantinople at 
the conquest of the city in 1204 was a natural outcome of this long tradition 
of opportunistic acquisition. 

In the western Mediterranean during the eleventh century, commercial ini- 
tiative and control passed to Pisa and Genoa. In 1015-16 they drove the Saracens 
out of Sardinia. In 1034 the Pisans seized Bone and in 1063, during the Nor- 
man conquest of Sicily, sacked Palermo. As the trade of the two cities grew 
they became rivals, leading to conflict between 1067 and 1085 and periodically 
during the twelfth century. They united in 1087, with a contingent from Rome 
and perhaps another from Amalfi, in the sack of al-Mahdiya, an expedition 
presumably intended to gain a position at the fulcrum of east-west trade, but 
also reflecting a strong religious concern, an alignment with papal ideas, and 
a distrust of imperial interests in Italy. Pisa and Genoa also collaborated in 
attacks on Valencia and Tortosa in 1092-3 and then in the First Crusade. From 
then on the two cities were as much involved in the eastern as in the western 
Mediterranean. The Genoese had been trading in Egypt by the 1060s, 
acquired a base in Antioch in 1098, and in 1104, in return for providing naval 
support, shares in the ports of Palestine and a promise of a share in Cairo 
were it to be captured. They seem to have been trading in Constantinople by 
the 1130s, acquiring rights there in 1155 and a compound soon afterwards. Pisa 
already had rights in the Palestinian ports in mi, when it gained a quarter 
in Constantinople. The rivalry between the Italians in Constantinople was 
fierce: in 1162 the Pisans attacked the Genoese merchants and in 1170-1 the 
Venetians helped them destroy the Genoese compound. In the course of the 
twelfth century Pisa, Genoa and other north Italian towns, including Lucca 
and Florence, obtained footholds in Sicilian ports, from which they probably 
exported wheat and leather. In 1162, following his seizure of Milan, Barbarossa 
promised both Pisa and Genoa extensive interests in Sicily should they help 
him conquer the kingdom, a promise renewed by Flenry VI in 1191. One of 
their aims was to control the distributive trade within the western Mediter- 
ranean, and from the early twelfth century onwards they each gained trading 
rights, houses and fondaci in the increasingly busy ports of Provence, the county 
of Toulouse and Catalonia, consolidated their interests in the Maghreb, and 
continued to attempt to establish positions in Andalusia. By c. 1170, however, 
Montpellier was noted for its many merchants from the Levant, Egypt and 
even England, as well as from Genoa and Pisa, 16 and by 1200 merchants from 

16 Benjamin of Tudela, Itinerary, p. 3 . 

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Towns and the growth of trade 


Provence and Catalonia had gained commercial privileges in Tyre, while those 
from Marseilles were trading in Sicily. As trade grew, so its networks became 
more diverse. 

The great expeditions of Pisa and Genoa had important cultural, religious 
and political implications. Booty from the Pisan expeditions to Palermo in 
1063 and to the Balearic islands in 1113-14 contributed to building the city’s 
new cathedral. Genoa’s participation in the capture of Almeria in 1146-7 and 
Tortosa in 1148 was undertaken on the promise of a third share of the two 
cities and freedom from toll throughout Castile and Catalonia, and with the 
prospect of controlling the valuable trade in Almeria silks. It also expressed 
a crusading ideal, and while the expeditions burdened Genoa with debt they 
enhanced its reputation as a place of power and Christian reputation, to its 
political advantage. During the emperor Frederick’s visits to Italy in 1154 and 
1158, threatening the independence of Genoa and other cities, the citizens 
pointedly gave him exotic gifts and declared themselves to be crusaders who 
had subdued the barbarians. Spoils from Almeria were set up in the heart of 
the city and the consuls placed an inscription on one of the new city gates 
celebrating the capture of the towns. 

The Italian trading cities owed much of their rapid increase in wealth during 
the twelfth century to the unprecedented prosperity of the Byzantine empire, 
which occurred in spite of its losses in Asia Minor. Rural production and pop- 
ulation growth, not least in the capital itself, stimulated trade. Some provincial 
towns prospered as consumer cities dependent upon landed wealth, while oth- 
ers experienced commercial and industrial development, stimulated in some 
cases by state investment. Russian traders flocked to Constantinople. Greek 
merchants travelled to Vladimir and at about the same time were noted by 
Benjamin of Tudela at Barcelona and Montpellier. 17 There are clear signs of 
urban growth on the lower Danube and in eastern Bulgaria. Thessaloniki pros- 
pered as a centre of trade and manufactures second only to Constantinople, 
and there seems to have been a general revival of urban life in Macedonia. The 
most striking growth outside the capital, however, was in central Greece and 
the Peloponnese, where there was much new building. By 1170 Almiros, not 
recorded before the twelfth century, was a flourishing port visited by Vene- 
tian, Pisan, Genoese and other merchants. Thebes was a thriving centre where 
Jews wove silk and made purple. Corinth, where the Venetians were already 
purchasing silk and oil in 1088, was at its peak in the twelfth century when it 
had pottery workshops and glass factories as well as a busy silk textile industry. 
Overall, it seems that up to the late twelfth century the Italians, far from un- 
dermining the Byzantine economy, may have helped to open it up, although 

17 Ibid. p. 2. 

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their penetration was of limited extent. Moreover, while Greek merchants may 
have laboured under the institutional disadvantage of state interference, they 
had for long enjoyed facilities in the form of coinage, credit mechanisms and 
interest rates far superior to those obtaining in Venice. Furthermore, the luxury 
products of Constantinople itself - silk robes, bronzes, ivories and mosaics - 
maintained their value in the west as cultural capital. 

Merchants from north of the Alps were regular visitors to Italy about 1020, 
bringing linen and woollen cloths, tin, swords, horses and slaves to the royal 
palace at Pavia. English merchants had been in conflict with palace officials, but 
were now freed from toll in return for a tribute of silver and other commodities 
to be paid by the English king. 18 This may refer to a long-standing arrangement 
or to an agreement made in 1027 between the kings of England and Denmark on 
the one hand and the king of Burgundy and the emperor on the other, by which 
English and Danish merchants and pilgrims travelling to Rome were to be free 
of tolls. 19 Throughout the period, the land routes through the western Alpine 
passes probably remained the principal means of commercial communication 
between north-western Europe and Italy, although development of ports to 
the west of Liguria suggests that routes along the Rhone valley and through 
the county of Toulouse also came to be used. Trade from Venice through the 
eastern passes into Germany was well developed by the early twelfth century, to 
judge from the role of Regensburg as a market for goods from Constantinople. 
The Ferrara fairs were important for Venetians as a place to meet merchants 
from Germany, as well as those who shipped their goods down the River Po. 
Later in the twelfth century Venice’s northern trade was greatly stimulated by 
the new flow of German silver, and in 1228 the Venetians began to build for 
the Germans the Fondaco dei Tedeschi in the heart of the city. 

Italian merchants also travelled north. They were at Ardres, near Calais, 
in the late eleventh century ‘in order to do their business in England’ 20 and 
were visiting the fair of Ypres in 1127. 21 Soon afterwards individual Italians are 
recorded in London, but not necessarily as merchants. At about the same date 
fustians as well as silks are recorded as an item of trade in London. 22 Merchants 
from Piacenza may have brought the fustians. 

The trade in woollen and linen textiles was above all responsible for strength- 
ening commercial links between north and south. This was already apparent 

18 Honorantie civitatis Papie. 

19 English Historical Documents, c. 500—1042, pp. 476-8; Laws of the Kings of England, pp. 147—53. 

20 Lambert of Ardres, Historia comitum Ghisnensium, p. 609; trans. Shopkow, p. 134; the story relates 
to the eleventh century, but may rather reflect conditions in the twelfth, when the chronicle was 
compiled: Ganshof (1925), Shopkow, p. 1 n. 3. 

21 Galbert of Bruges: The Murder of Charles the Good, pp. 123-4. 

22 Gesetze der Angelsachsen 1, p. 674. 

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Towns and the growth of trade 


before 1020, but seems to have become substantial, with the emphasis on wool- 
lens, only after 1100. A possibly Flemish merchant was trading in expensive 
textiles in Barcelona in 1009, but this is an isolated and ambiguous case. Genoa 
was well situated for overland trade with the north. The ‘merchants from be- 
yond the mountains’ who sold both woollen and linen cloth there in 1128 
may have included Englishmen, Flemings and Germans. By the late twelfth 
century Genoa contained a settled community of English families, including 
Londoners, and people from northern France, Flanders and LRge were also 
living there. Cloths specifically from Flanders and Champagne appeared in the 
Genoese market probably well before 1150, and later in the century the products 
of many northern French and Flemish textile towns were known in Genoa by 
their names, along with cloths from England and Germany. The great majority 
of these textiles appear to have been relatively light and cheap woollen textiles 
produced in bulk, in contrast to the more expensive goods from the south. 
Some of the German textiles (Cologne and Regensburg are the only towns 
identified as places of origin) were linens rather than woollens, and linens from 
Champagne may have included cloths of German origin which were traded to 
the Champagne fairs. Arras emerged as the key transmission centre for Flemish 
cloth. Some of these textiles were supplied to the local market in and around 
Genoa, but by the 1180s many of them were shipped overseas to substantial 
markets in Sicily, Constantinople, Syria, Alexandria and the Maghreb. The 
high-quality cloths from Ypres dominated this sector of the trade. Some cloths 
were dyed and finished in Genoa. 

Northerners travelled south by other routes and established control of the 
western seas. Pilgrimage to the shrine of St James stimulated traffic and busi- 
ness, and by 1130 Englishmen and Lotharingians were trading at Compostella 
itself. By the mid-twelfth century the sea north of Spain was known to south- 
erners as the ‘English Sea’, 23 anticipating the close trading links which began 
to develop between the Bay of Biscay ports and the north from the late twelfth 
century onwards. Rhinelanders, Flemings and Englishmen, including Lon- 
doners, participated in the siege of Lisbon in 1147 and then carried on to join 
with the Genoese and Catalans in the capture of Tortosa. Londoners on their 
way to the Third Crusade joined in a similar adventure in Portugal. But the 
current and the prevailing wind made sailing westwards through the Straits of 
Gibraltar exceptionally difficult, and it is unlikely that these expeditions were 
associated with regular trade into the Mediterranean and with Andalusia. 

Northern textiles, carried overland, reshaped Mediterranean trade. The 
north Italian cities handled them, but in the late twelfth century had no compa- 
rable products of their own which supplied an export market. Lucca produced 

23 Al-Idrisi, Description de I’Afrique et de I’Espagne, p. 206 . 

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woollens that Genoa sent to the south, but its silk industry did not become 
important until the thirteenth century. Towards the end of the twelfth century 
Milan was becoming widely known for its production of armour and Pisa for 
its export of iron from the ore mined in its territories of Elba and Piombino. 
The one exception was the weaving of fustians in the towns of the Po plain, 
using cotton imported from Egypt and later from Sicily. Piacenza, exploiting 
its strategic situation on inland routes and its connections with Venice and 
Genoa, was the most important centre of this production. By the mid-twelfth 
century the city had acquired substantial wealth and its fustians were shipped 
to Alexandria. At the end of the century its merchants were beginning to sub- 
stitute themselves for the northerners who brought cloth to Genoa and to trade 
directly, or through their intermediaries the carriers of Asti, in the Champagne 
fairs. This was the origin of their later role as bankers at the fairs. The merchants 
of Asti already enjoyed rights of passage through Burgundy to the fairs in 1190, 
when those of Genoa acquired the same privilege. Southern trade probably also 
contributed to the diffusion of financial techniques during the later twelfth 
century, with the Genoese placing funds on deposit in Messina, Naples and 

A system of seasonal fairs developed in Lombardy from the tenth century 
onwards. In southern and eastern England, Flanders and parts of Germany fairs 
proliferated and gained regional importance from the late eleventh century 
onwards. Those of Champagne had a more remote ancestry but came to the 
fore somewhat later. Their situation on the route between Flanders and Italy, 
but also enjoying ready access to the valleys of the Meuse and the Moselle, 
together with the protection and careful management offered by the counts 
of Champagne, enabled them in the second half of the twelfth century to 
develop collectively as a major focus of international trade. The four comital 
towns of Troyes, Provins, Bar-sur-Aube and Lagny operated a cycle of six fairs 
throughout the year. They experienced a distinctive episode of urban growth as 
they acquired new streets and marketplaces to accommodate the traders, who 
initially had set up their stalls on the margins of the towns. Merchants from 
Arras and Flanders were present in the 1130s and from Rheims, Paris, Rouen and 
Limoges by the 1170s. The fairs linked and focused markets, thereby reducing 
the uncertainties and costs of long-distance trade. Italians, who frequented 
the fairs from the late twelfth century onwards, were an important element in 
their long-term success. The first Milanese to go north to buy their cloth did 
so in 1172. The increasing wealth and reach of Italian merchants reduced the 
northerners’ ability and need to maintain bases in Genoa and other southern 
ports. At the end of the century the five main fairs of Flanders also developed an 
annual cycle, which was perhaps a response to that in Champagne, indicating 
a further stage of commercial integration. 

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Towns and the growth of trade 


These were significant changes, antecedents of the ‘commercial revolution’ 
of the thirteenth century. The extension and integration of trading systems 
over much of Europe facilitated local specialisation, and towns and regions 
came to be known for distinctive products. 

The rapid growth of towns promoted commercial solutions to the basic prob- 
lems of supply, and these in turn encouraged specialised agriculture. Amalfi 
and Venice were famous for living not on what they had grown themselves 
but on what they obtained by trade. In the twelfth century Genoa likewise 
came to depend on corn shipped from the south. Its needs and those of other 
north Italian cities began to generate the wheat monoculture of Sicily. Locally 
grown grain was insufficient to feed Novgorod, which often drew supplies from 
southern Russia. From the eleventh century Flanders imported cheese from 
England, and in the twelfth century, at least occasionally, both corn and coal, 
goods which could be shipped as cheaply to Flemish cities as to London. In 
some of the larger cities there are hints that by the twelfth century the long- 
range droving of cattle made a contribution to food supply. Urban growth, as 
well as general demand, promoted fishing and fish processing. Salt, which as 
a preservative allowed certain foods, notably fish and bacon, to be stockpiled 
and traded as standard commodities, was carted great distances to towns in 
eastern Europe, was a staple of Liibeck’s trade, and was one of the attractions of 
Sardinia to the Pisans and Genoese. The spread of intensive viticulture was also 
a response to expanding urban demand. In England a significant shift towards 
coal as a fuel had taken place by 1200, at least in the largest city. These supply 
systems could stimulate the rapid growth, sometimes from almost nothing, of 
places such as Newcastle (for coal), and the ports of the Wash (for corn, fish and 
salt, as well as wool and textiles), as collecting and shipping points. Lille appears 
to have prospered as a market supplying corn from southern Flanders to the ex- 
panding towns of the north, while Damme, founded before 1180 as the outport 
of Bruges, soon came to specialise in handling wine and salt from France. 

To some degree it is possible to identify in these linkages a system whereby 
primary goods such as furs, timber and agrarian products were being trans- 
ferred to more central and richer places of processing and consumption. The 
movement of textiles, however, shows that within western Europe at least the 
balance of comparative advantage, which dictated the exchange of manufac- 
tured goods, could be fine. Linen and woollen textiles from the north always 
had a market in the south despite, as in the case of linens, fustians and the 
woollens of Lucca, there being locally made alternatives. Even in the north 
textiles moved between centres with similar products, as between Flanders and 
England. Labour costs, rapid urbanisation and the flows of information pro- 
moted by institutions such as the fairs presumably made the difference and 

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7 2 


promoted the explosion of specialised textile production in Flanders and its 
vicinity. Trade in primary goods also promoted urban industry. The smiths 
of Novgorod, for example, increased their output of iron goods, which were 
used to purchase furs. Numerous cases show that market advantage and the 
accumulation of skills, rather than the simple availability of materials, came 
to be key factors in urban industry. This was clearly the case with Lombardy 
fustians. The weapons and armour produced in Cologne and Milan used iron 
from Liege, Bergamo and Brescia, not the immediate vicinity. In the brass- 
working towns of the Meuse valley only zinc was available locally: copper and 
tin were brought in over great distances. 

Towns also generated great reservoirs of people. Russian leaders saw them as 
places where armies could be raised instantly, and their conflicts often focused 
on the control and destruction of towns, as was also the case elsewhere. The 
Flemish towns were a famous source of soldiers in both England and France. 
Towns also operated an international market in skills. Flemish settlers in Sax- 
ony after 1160 were known for their cloth-making. There were Flemish and 
Brabantine weavers in Magdeburg in 1179 and in Vienna in 1208. The Normans 
brought silk-workers from Corinth to Sicily in 1147. 

Building was one of the dominant characteristics of town life. In the towns of 
most regions there was a marked increase in construction from the eleventh 
century onwards. In the larger towns the framework of streets was inherited 
from earlier periods. New streets were inserted. Building encroached on to river 
frontages and marsh. Landlords and tenants subdivided houses and divided 
and built on open plots. Once substantial houses moved downmarket and 
shacks proliferated on the margins. Sometimes regular layouts were employed, 
especially for substantial extensions and for small towns. The wide market 
street was a common feature, as at Speyer following the building of the great 
new cathedral in the mid-eleventh century, or in the fair towns of Champagne. 
In the south new towns were often laid out on a more or less regular grid, 
as at Montauban in 1144, where the size of house plots was precisely defined, 
although the use of rectilinear plans was also well established in the north. 
Marketplaces, however, were often irregular spaces at castle, abbey or town 
gates, where roads converged. Many of the busier towns had more than one 
market focus. Within the walls of twelfth-century London, for example, there 
were two neighbourhoods known simply as ‘market’. One of these was in the 
western part of the city in the wide street leading east from St Paul’s cathedral, 
while the ‘east market’ had emerged by 1100 near London Bridge. There were 
several lesser streets and spaces which probably housed markets by this date. Just 
outside the city walls, to east and west, there were two large open spaces, used 
for livestock trading and fairs. Assembly areas, courthouses and civic buildings 

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Towns and the growth of trade 


were often situated where the chief market and the principal site of authority 
in the town adjoined, as in Cologne. Jewish communities, closely involved in 
trade and finance and enjoying the special protection of the lord of the town, 
often settled in the same vicinity. In the north in the eleventh century it was 
recognised that a community of Jews civilised a town. 

Remodelling of townscapes was commonly associated with the imposition 
of fortifications, and the rebuilding of cathedral and abbey churches. Commer- 
cial wealth could contribute to such programmes, which might express both 
the new power of the citizens and religious ideals of urban order. Town walls 
could be important collective projects and the citizens of Genoa remodelled 
their harbour. The Pisans financed a cathedral building project that introduced 
a sense of Jerusalem to the city. In northern Europe, the growing landed wealth 
of ecclesiastical institutions and secular lords was a more significant element 
in these developments. The proliferation of housing and other activities in the 
vicinity of great churches was one reason for reordering their precincts, while 
their rebuilding was sometimes occasioned by their destruction in town fires. 
In several German cities during the tenth and eleventh centuries the careful 
positioning of newly erected great churches created formal ‘sacred landscapes’. 
By the mid- twelfth century the city of Winchester was surrounded by a sub- 
urban landscape in which church dedications seem deliberately intended to 
remind both citizens and travellers of the Holy Land and the great continental 
places of pilgrimage. 

Growth commonly resulted in the shift of a city’s centre of gravity. In Paris 
during the twelfth century a succession of royal initiatives moved the com- 
mercial focus on the north bank from La Greve to the ‘little fields’ on the 
north-western margin of the settlement, where it was much better placed for 
road traffic. The king transferred one of the fairs previously held outside Paris 
to the new site, ordered the space and erected buildings for traders there. The 
neighbourhood between this new focus and the bridge crossing to the royal 
palace on the Isle de la Cite to the south quickly became the heart of Parisian 
business life. At Bologna in the eleventh century the commercial focus shifted 
from the market next to the cathedral in the centre of the city, to the space just 
outside the Porta Ravegnana where five major roads converged. This reflects 
the growing importance of exchange between town and country, and the influ- 
ence on the city’s economy of the well-endowed abbey of San Stefano, which 
stood a short distance outside the gate. Similar changes took place in English 
towns. At Northampton, which grew rapidly in wealth during the twelfth cen- 
tury, the focus of the later medieval town was at the convergence of roads just 
outside one of the gates in the early defences. This area was eventually enclosed 
within a new circuit of walls and may have been the novus burgus mentioned 
in 1086. At Hereford the principal market shifted from within the defences 

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to occupy a large space running along the edge of the ditch outside the city 

By the late twelfth century the practice was developing in Italy of creating 
formal spaces in the heart of cities for ceremonial and commercial purposes by 
acquiring and demolishing buildings. In Venice, Sebastiano Ziani at his death 
in 1178 left to the city houses he had acquired for this purpose, thus originating 
the great civic space of the Piazza San Marco. At about the same time the focus 
of the communal government of Bologna was established well away from the 
cathedral in a small square, which was subsequently enlarged and ameliorated. 
Northern cities such as Lille, Ghent and London adopted similar policies in the 
thirteenth century. At Ypres there are indications that one of its marketplaces 
was enlarged in the twelfth. 

The early phases of rapid urban expansion depended upon the use of cheap 
and accessible materials, which commonly dictated the use of timber and un- 
fired earth for dwellings. This was the case even in Italy, where the transport 
and industrial structure which supported quarrying and brick-making was 
more developed and the inheritance of masonry buildings from earlier periods 
more substantial than elsewhere. In northern and central Europe there was a 
development from relatively slight to more solid and carefully wrought timber 
structures, which from around 1200 could be built higher than before. Never- 
theless, the tall dwellings in the major Islamic cities stood in sharp contrast to 
the houses of European towns, where the majority were no more than two or 
three storeys high. By the late eleventh century the larger northern towns had 
acquired a distinctive repertoire of house types. These included rows of cot- 
tages in peripheral or poor districts, and closely packed houses on busy streets 
with narrow frontages of about 5 m or less where the ground floor was used 
as a workshop or for retailing. The more substantial and complex premises 
occupied by leading citizens, churchmen and the nobility often included small 
houses or shops to let on the street frontage, while the main residence, with a 
courtyard or garden, lay to the rear. A great deal of the capital value of towns 
was tied up in their buildings and in the land they stood on. That value made 
a dynamic contribution, since as towns grew it both generated liquidisable 
assets for those who controlled property and provided opportunities for saving 
and investment by those who made money from trade. By 1100 a property 
market had developed in the towns of northern Europe comparable to that 
in the towns of the south. While ecclesiastical and secular lords often had 
the largest rent rolls, the control of urban land and houses, with associated 
rights of inheritance, was passing into the hands of townsmen who exercised 
a direct supervision of their holdings. Many families that rose to prominence 
in twelfth-century towns probably owed much of their wealth to the rapid 
increase in the value of their property there. 

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Towns and the growth of trade 


In northern towns, and even in Italy, there was a striking increase in the use of 
masonry for house building from the late eleventh century onwards. At Liibeck, 
far from sources of stone and lacking an existing brick tradition, that was a 
development of the thirteenth century. This material transition reflected the 
accumulation of wealth and the development of an infrastructure of quarries 
and transport which was often promoted by major building projects, such as 
castles, palaces and cathedrals. Among the first lesser structures to be built 
of stone were the small neighbourhood or parish churches that proliferated 
in towns across Europe during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. London, 
for example, appears to have acquired most of its no parish churches by the 
mid-twelfth century. Many of these churches were intimately associated with 
less substantial houses and workshops, suggesting that they originally offered 
two forms of security to the family or neighbourhood groups who built them: 
spiritual salvation and safe-keeping of their goods from fire and theft. Security 
similarly influenced investment in stone houses, some early instances of which 
are associated with goldsmiths, moneyers and the wine trade, as well as with 
members of landowning and official elites. A stone or brick house could present 
a fine faf ade to the street, but often the use of masonry was confined to cellars 
or vaults or to high-status dwellings towards the rear of plots. Even modest 
stone houses often had impressive ranges of windows on the first floor above 
commercial premises, denoting the position of the most favoured room and 
the existence of an urban social culture of reputation, which involved both 
gazing on to the street and being seen from there. 

In Italian towns, from Rome northwards, the inner part of many large 
house complexes included a fortified tower. These towers expressed the wealth, 
power and rivalry of the aristocratic families and alliances that built them, and 
the control which those groups exercised over the immediate neighbourhood. 
Sometimes the towers were very close together, and a number of towns con- 
tained well over a hundred of them. They made a strong impression on visitors 
such as Benjamin of Tudela, who in the 1160s claimed that the inhabitants 
of Genoa all had towers on top of their houses, from which they made war 
on each other, and also that Pisa had 10,000 similar towers. 24 At Bologna 
there were many towers near the Porta Ravegnana, suggesting that their own- 
ers wished to establish footholds in that prosperous district. They included 
the Assinelli tower, apparently built in the late eleventh century and standing 
93 m high, possibly the tallest building in the Europe of its day. In several 
cities of the Midi, where milites were prominent in urban society, aristocratic 
families occupied towers on the walls. Some northern cities also had such tow- 
ers, of which those at Regensburg are the best known. Officials at Laon and 

24 Benjamin of Tudela, Itinerary, p. 5 . 

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Bruges had fortified houses, while Ghent contained some very tall stone houses. 
London lacked towers, except in its castles and along the city wall, but some of 
its twelfth-century landowning and mercantile families occupied enclosures, 
which acquired distinctive names. Incorporating the names of the families, 
these suggest that the houses dominated certain neighbourhoods and were as- 
sociated with a factionalism which was certainly present in the city, although 
not on an Italian scale. 

Rapid and disorderly urban growth generated problems of its own, of which 
the most serious was fire. In England, France and Italy towns were frequently 
devastated by fire. London’s conflagrations led by the early thirteenth century 
to the formulation of sophisticated regulations governing building materials 
and the use of fire-proof party walls. Sanitary problems also generated rules 
concerning the disposal of rubbish and rainwater and the placing of cess- 
pits, while archaeological evidence shows that street surfaces were regularly 
maintained, although not to the standards of classical times. In the thirteenth 
century an English queen of a century before was remembered as the founder 
of a public latrine in a busy waterfront district of London, demonstrating that 
the provision of basic urban facilities had come to be seen as an act of charity 
and a source of honour. There was an established tradition of canalising streams 
so as to provide power for town mills, drinking water and systems of cleansing. 
In some Italian cities ancient aqueducts had been maintained or restored. 
Sophisticated systems for piping drinking water from springs to cisterns or 
fountains were a feature of urban palaces and monasteries, but seem not to 
have been adopted for general water provision until the thirteenth century. 
Outside towns, the maintenance of roads and waterways was a matter of great 
interest to townsmen and their rulers. Ypres owed much of its prosperity to the 
canalisation of its river during the second half of the twelfth century. Bridges 
were another special urban concern and from the mid-twelfth century onwards 
there was a widespread programme of building or rebuilding town bridges in 

Townsmen and traders came to occupy an increasingly distinct role in the 
governance of towns. The complexity of the relationships between these groups 
and those who exercised authority in and over towns, and the many different 
ways in which those relationships were played out in practice, have tended 
to obscure some fundamental similarities between different parts of Europe. 
There seem to be few if any formulae that explain the outcome of relations 
between social classes and institutions in towns, even though fundamental 
interests were often similar. Much was contingent on local circumstances and 
external events. If there are broad differences across Europe in the nature of 
urban governance and society, they have their roots in relationships between 

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Towns and the growth of trade 


towns and wider structures of power - namely in the nature of the wider polity 
of which the town was part. 

Throughout the eleventh century, in both north and south, the actions of 
groups of leading townsmen are increasingly evident. These associations were 
often short-lived, but could become established in the life and governance of a 
town. Similar groups exercised routine responsibilities and represented towns- 
men in relation to higher authority. They were identified by many imprecise 
terms, including hurgenses meliores, primates urbis, probi homines and seniores. 
Their membership and the degree to which it may have overlapped with that 
of other associations is often far from clear. In Italy and parts of France they 
commonly included landowning nobles and knights ( milites ) whose interests 
focused on the city. Such groups were sometimes described as communes and, 
whether or not so described, came to represent that urban collectivity which 
is today often labelled communal government. In the north these groups 
sometimes had more purely mercantile characteristics. The urban leaders who 
opposed their bishops or other lords were sometimes identified as merchants, 
as at Cologne and Cambrai in the 1070s. At Cambrai the group was described 
as a commune. But northern communes and groups of leading townsmen 
certainly could incorporate non-mercantile interests. The peace movement of 
the tenth and eleventh centuries influenced, but probably did not originate, 
the idea of the commune, in both north and south. It brought different social 
groups together in sworn associations that covered wide territories. They were 
promoted by bishops, focused on cities and bound both townsmen and the ru- 
ral aristocracy. Merchants and carters were identified as being among those who 
benefited from such arrangements, as at Rouen in 1096. Communes were 
very similar and often had peace as a prime concern. Leaders within the town 
and powerful individuals outside often worked together, as in the conjuratio at 
Cologne in 1114 (probably) which was directed against the emperor. Later in 
the century landowning vassals and officials of the archbishop in Cologne seem 
often to have been socially indistinguishable from members of commercial 
families with whom they had economic activities in common. Some northern 
communes, as with the one promoted by the bishop at Noyon in 1108-9, were 
explicitly for the benefit of clerks and knights, as well as burgesses. At London 
at least one family with extensive lands in the hinterland, of which some were 
held for military service, produced a canon of the cathedral and merchants, 
moneyers, aldermen and royal officials in the city. This recalls the family 
links between cathedral clergy, rural nobility and leading citizens, which were 
common in Italy and elsewhere. In twelfth-century London, as we have seen, 
it seems that the term nobilis could sometimes denote a member of a leading 
city family active in trade but lacking any discernible blood relationship 
to the landowning aristocracy. Aristocrats certainly did not shun the larger 

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English cities, but maintained houses there and at times of crisis attempted to 
establish positions there by force like their Italian counterparts. Such people, 
however, were fewer than their equivalents in the towns of the south, and more 
constrained by regnal authority. The differences between north and south in 
the involvement of mercantile and landowning interests in groups of leading 
townsmen seem to be ones of degree rather than fundamental structure. 

An elite among the ‘better citizens’ sat on judicial assemblies and tribunals, 
under the supervision of an official of the lord of the town (bishop, count 
or king). Between the Seine and the Rhine these individuals were commonly 
known by the Carolingian term scabini. They were often rural tenants and 
dependants of the lord, who sometimes appointed them, but they also in- 
cluded merchants. In England their equivalents were known as lawmen or 
aldermen, offices which sometimes ran in families. Terms such as barones or 
senatores (Cologne, Ghent, London) were occasionally used to denote members 
of these tribunals, although it is not always clear that they had any more pre- 
cise connotation than ‘better citizens’. London’s aldermen met in the court of 
Husting, supervised by the king’s reeves or other representatives. Self-evidently 
an indoor meeting, the Husting was operating by 1000. By the late twelfth 
century it usually sat weekly at the city’s guildhall and exercised jurisdictions 
over property holding, weights and measures, debt and relations with foreign 
merchants. The citizens through the Husting provided expert knowledge of 
these essentially urban and commercial matters and doubtless exercised much 
day-to-day control. The king did not lose his ultimate authority, but the citi- 
zens began to acquire a role even in the appointment of royal officials. Likewise 
in Cologne, institutions of a communal character grew with the tacit assent 
of the archbishop, who nevertheless continued through his officials to exercise 
regalian rights over justice, money and tolls. Significantly, the domus civium, 
where the better men and senators of Cologne were meeting to do business 
by 1149, was close to the archbishop’s palace. There were certainly conflicts of 
interest, which attracted the attention of chroniclers, but much seems to have 
been achieved by consensus. Developments in Barcelona and many Italian 
towns were similar. 

In northern Italy, however, the acquisition of regalian rights, the degree 
of informal self-government, and the emergence of sworn associations, were 
already well advanced by 1050. Milan provides a well-recorded example of 
the complexity of these developments in a large, strategically located city, 
where a multitude of landed groups competed for power. It also exemplifies 
the increasing role of episcopal authority as a focus for civic aspirations and rule. 
By the late eleventh century, communal regimes under magistracies of consuls 
were an established feature in northern Italian cities, representing the whole 
urban collectivity primarily through a landowning nobility that nevertheless 

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Towns and the growth of trade 


shared and incorporated mercantile interests. The very name consul reflects the 
conscious attempt to revive Roman principles to meet the practical problems of 
an increasingly complex, commercial and urbanised society. Consuls exercised 
more distinctly independent responsibilities than scabini or aldermen, but 
they were about as numerous (despite much local variation and change) and 
in practice had a similar role in civic affairs. In the eleventh and first half of the 
twelfth century they were often associated with bishops in town government, 
reconciling conflicting parties, imposing order and furthering the interests of 
the city, but later they tended to act alone. Consuls appeared in Provence, the 
county of Toulouse and Catalonia, as Roman law and the commercial influence 
of Pisa and Genoa spread in those regions. At Toulouse the capitularii were a 
sort of comital council, but at the same time acted for the city. They became 
the twenty-four consuls, first mentioned in 1168. At Venice, where the doge 
was the fount of authority, there were no consuls, but by 1143 a council of 
sapientes, numbering thirty-five, had emerged. 

Popular assemblies, meeting a few times a year, were also an important 
element in these collective regimes. They involved hundreds, if not thousands, 
of individuals, but the extent of their membership is uncertain. Their role 
was to ratify, commonly by acclamation, the decisions of councils and higher 
authorities. In Italy these ‘parliaments’ often met in cathedrals. Their London 
equivalent, the folkmoot, met in the cathedral churchyard. In Italy the extent 
of urbanisation and the strength of interest groups meant that during the 
twelfth century urban government developed a degree of elaboration which 
was not usually apparent in the north until well after 1200. Councils, with 
a hundred or more members, emerged between the consuls and the popular 
assemblies. Specialised offices, dealing with justice and finance were set up. 
Pisa and Venice evolved systems of public debt. Within cities everywhere 
topographical divisions with administrative functions became more apparent 
and were reflected in the composition of assemblies. Streets, wards (identified 
by a wide range of terms) and parishes are each evident during the twelfth 
century as units of neighbourhood identity and secular administration, dealing 
with environmental management, taxation, defence, and the witnessing and 
registration of property deals. 

In many northern towns merchant guilds were an important focus of social 
solidarity from the tenth century onwards. Early references, including the later 
eleventh-century statutes from Valenciennes and St Omer, emphasise the oaths 
and drinking sessions which bound members together; the provision of mutual 
assistance, especially when travelling in foreign lands; poor relief; and public 
services such as the maintenance of streets and walls. Rulers acknowledged 
the privileges of merchant guilds, including freedom from toll. The members 
of a merchant guild in one English city (Canterbury) were known as knights 

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(i cnihtas , perhaps originally retainers of the king or other lords but not neces- 
sarily with a military function), and other English cities had guilds of knights 
in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. They met in guildhalls and in some cases 
certainly had rights in town administration. They presumably provided some 
sort of framework or ancestry for the communities of burgesses which emerge 
more clearly from the late twelfth century onwards as the dominant bodies 
in the governance of many English towns under the king. At Paris between 
1120 and 1224 the merchants involved in river trade acquired a growing body of 
rights and duties from the king, including responsibility for port facilities. They 
were the nucleus of the later municipality. Merchant guilds, however, were not 
necessarily identical with communes, nor did communes necessarily embody 
the whole urban collective, as they seem to have done in the south. Italy lacked 
early merchant guilds (although consuls and communes of merchants appear 
from the mid-twelfth century onwards), presumably because the practice of 
trade was more engrained and secure than in the north. Similar reasons may 
explain the lack of a merchant guild in London, where for perhaps 150 years up 
to 1125 there existed a guild of cnihtas under royal protection. It is impossible to 
prove any link between this guild, the city guildhall and a guildhall mentioned 
in another record of the 1120s. Yet Londons civic guildhall certainly existed as a 
structure (if not certainly a guildhall) not long after the first record of Cologne’s 
town hall and about the same time as the first great building of palazzi pubblici 
by the Italian communes. The other town guilds and fraternities which were 
widespread in this period were identified by their religious, craft, fund-raising 
and neighbourhood associations 

Indications of the distinctive character of town customs and laws abound 
from the eleventh century onwards, above all in Italy. Rulers acknowledged and 
confirmed them, often at the beginning of a reign or following the resolution 
of conflict. King William confirmed the customs of London soon after his 
conquest of England in 1066. Emperor Henry V confirmed the citizens of 
Bologna in their ancient customs and granted them new rights in 1116, soon 
after the troubles that followed the death of the countess of Tuscany. Often 
those customs were not written down. When the commune of Valenciennes 
was set up in 1114, the count of Hainault saw that the city relied on customs 
rather than written law and so gave it a law called ‘peace’. 25 Later town charters 
tended to specify customs minutely. There are signs at London, however, of a 
continuous but informal tradition of recording city customs in writing from 
about 1000 into the thirteenth century, at first concerning foreign traders but in 
the twelfth century extending to judicial, administrative and financial matters. 
The customs of dominant commercial cities such as Cologne, London and 

25 Gislebert of Mons, Chronique, p. 78. 

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Towns and the growth of trade 


Rouen set standards of practice in urban affairs which served as models for 
other towns under the same lordship. In Italy, as befitted the land outside the 
Muslim and Byzantine spheres where the business of writing and the study 
of law were most entrenched, the formal practice of codifying town laws is 
apparent from about 1150 onwards. By about 1200 the keeping ofwritten records 
as a routine aid to administration and memory was becoming widespread 
in the cities of western Europe. There are hints, however, that the growth 
in trade, finance and the complexities of urban life had promoted a culture 
of practical literacy from a much earlier date. By the late eleventh century, 
city administrations in England probably employed quite detailed records of 
householders and property ownership. In Novgorod and other Russian cities 
from the same time onwards there was a remarkable proliferation of birch- 
bark letters between townsmen, concerned above all with matters of money 
and trade. For their informality, everyday concerns and mode of survival, but 
not their literary and commercial sophistication, these documents recall the 
contemporary letters of the Cairo Jewish community. 

New forms in town governance often emerged in response to crises or to 
particular needs, such as naval expeditions or the building of defences and 
bridges. They were thus also associated with violent conflict. In both north 
and south violence was recognised as endemic in towns, being associated with 
crowded conditions, drink and oaths. In Italy major outbreaks usually arose 
from rivalries between aristocratic parties, from conflict between towns, and 
from the alignment of parties and towns with opposing sides in wider struggles, 
such as those between the emperor and the pope. Communes often emerged 
silently as a means of resolving internal strife. In the less urbanised north 
the balance of power was different, and the establishment of a commune, 
while often peaceful, on some notorious occasions involved public outcry and 
violence directed against the bishop as lord of the town. Some churchmen 
condemned communes as being profane or contrary to law and natural order. 
On the other hand there were bishops who promoted communes. Tensions 
between different sources of authority were fundamental, but were expressed in 
a variety of opportunistic ways. Here too, the issue of church reform could be a 
significant polarising force. Townsmen could ally with cathedral canons against 
reform, reformists against an imperial bishop or with the emperor against a 

The strength of territorial rulers was also crucial. In the 1160s and 1170s the 
count of Flanders consolidated his power and granted new charters to Flemish 
cities, with the result that in most of them formal communal powers ceased to 
exist. At that time the French king tended to favour urban communes outside 
his territory but not within. In southern Italy communal developments were 
arrested with the imposition of Norman rule. The authority of the English 

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king was such that communes were hardly apparent in his kingdom during 
the twelfth century. London was the exception, where during the civil war the 
citizens pursued their interests as a commune, and during the 1190s, when the 
power vacuum and the king’s urgent need for money allowed them again to 
assert a commune, this time with more long-lasting consequences. Even so, the 
new regime, in which the principal citizens united under the single magistracy 
of their mayor, offered considerable advantages to the monarch as a means 
of dealing with a complex and wealthy city. Likewise in northern Italy, from 
c. 1150 onwards, communes periodically attempted to solve the problem of 
internal conflict, including the control of towers, by resorting to the rule of 
a single magistrate, often known as the podestd, brought in from outside the 
city, a trend which was reinforced by Barbarossa’s imposition of such officials 
after 1160. One effect of the new unitary regime in London was to increase the 
polarity between the more powerful and the less powerful citizens. In many 
towns, in both north and south, there were signs of a growing rivalry between 
merchants and artisans. 

In the mid-twelfth century, northern Italy was perceived, more or less cor- 
rectly, as a land divided between autonomous towns under the rule of consuls 
where scarcely any noble did not acknowledge the authority of a city. Imperial 
palaces in cities had been destroyed, as at Pavia in 1124 and Bologna in 1115. 
Imperial attempts, aided by alliances with selected towns, to restore unitary 
rule and to gain control of the riches of the south had no lasting effect. In such 
disordered circumstances cities had no option but to seek security through the 
control of the surrounding territory, the contado, thereby increasing the avail- 
able resources of men, taxes and food supply. They improved road transport 
and navigation, increased the extent of arable land and introduced inten- 
sive dairying. They brought reluctant aristocrats, castelli and lesser communes 
under their control, and sought protected access to trading routes. They gained 
advantage by allying with the emperor, the pope or other towns. Since cities 
were so close together, neighbours were usually at odds. Lucca, the traditional 
capital of Tuscany, always allied itself against the upstart Pisa, which in 1171, 
partly in order to secure support against Genoa, established a rapprochement 
with Florence, which then itself entered into successive commercial treaties 
with Piacenza, Siena and Chivasso. Episcopal authority was an important in- 
fluence, so that the contado often corresponded to the diocese. Archbishop 
Aribert’s assertion of authority over eighteen sees shaped Milan’s territory and 
gave rise to the consistent opposition of Como and Lodi. Strategies of con- 
solidation included the widespread foundation of new towns. The papal town 
of Alessandria, created out of four village communities in 1168, commanded 
routes in the Po plain, especially that to Genoa which had recently allied to the 
emperor. Treviso defined its border with Padua in 1195 by establishing the small 

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Towns and the growth of trade 


town of Castelfranco, with a grid plan and rectangular outline. A few years 
later, and only 10 km away, Padua founded the gridded but circular Citadella 
as its rival. Urban form was an emblem of territory and authority. 

Such strategies were impossible, indeed unnecessary, under the more pow- 
erful monarchies of England and of France from about 1200, although the 
foundation of small towns could play a part in the territorial strategies of rival 
magnates under the king. Exceptionally, both London and Paris obtained con- 
trol of extensive stretches of their rivers. It was characteristic of such cities that 
they were more successful than their rivals in obtaining and asserting freedom 
from tolls within their kingdoms, but they gained few powers over territory be- 
yond their immediate jurisdiction. Indeed, remnants of more extensive rights 
apparently inherited from earlier periods were eroded. The looser system of 
control that prevailed in Germany, however, enabled Cologne to pursue a pol- 
icy of commercial alliances with other cities. Toulouse, as a capital in its own 
right, in the twelfth century pursued a territorial policy on north Italian lines. 

In Italy the idea of town life as the natural focus of social order was well estab- 
lished in the eleventh century, but in the north, despite explosive commercial 
and urban growth, the emphasis, even within cities, was on lordship and on 
landowning institutions such as monasteries. Over the two centuries as a whole, 
however, both regions experienced a remarkable growth of a distinct social, ma- 
terial and intellectual culture in towns, and of an associated capacity to visualise 
and theorise the urban environment. The sources of inspiration were diverse. 
One expression of civic identity and patriotism in late twelfth-century Italy 
was the carroccio, a wagon bearing religious symbols which served as a rallying 
point in battle and a focus for other ceremonial occasions. Yet the carroccio 
was not a strictly communal invention and seems to have originated with 
the war chariot devised by Archbishop Aribert when he led the defence of 
Milan against the imperial siege in 1039. Similar communities, and sometimes 
conflicts, of interest can be seen in the attitudes of citizens to patron saints: 
in twelfth-century Italy saints protected urban communities, while citizens 
guarded their relics against dispersal and enforced the loyalty of the contadini 
to their patron. Pisa, unsurprisingly, acquired one of the rare instances of a lay 
saint, one Ranieri from a noble Pisan family who traded to the Holy Land and 
on his return preached a radical piety in the city. His cult developed rapidly 
after his death in 1160 and he soon became patron of the city, subordinate 
only to the Virgin Mary. Londoners’ adoption as their patron of St Thomas of 
Canterbury, martyred in 1170, is especially noteworthy since it coincided with 
the emergence of the new mayoral regime. Not only had Thomas been born 
in the city and grown up in its administration, but he also symbolised a posi- 
tion of independence from the king and offered the citizens an opportunity of 

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8 4 


distancing themselves from their bishop. Moreover, he was the ideal patron for 
London’s new bridge, linking the cities of his birth and death and representing 
a major financial effort that undoubtedly gave Londoners a new social and 
political cohesion. 

Cathedrals and other major urban churches were important symbols of 
unity and civic identity. In twelfth-century Italy communal offices were set up 
to finance and maintain them. Inscriptions on Pisa’s cathedral proclaim the 
city’s victories overseas that had paid for the fabric. At Ferrara an extract from 
communal statutes was in 1173 inscribed on stone and fixed to the wall of the 
cathedral. Town laws were powerful expressions of new identities and in Italy 
the process of codifying them was informed by the attempt to revive Roman 
juridical norms to meet the needs of busy commercial cities. Bologna’s lawyers 
brought business and reputation to the city, by their teaching and their work 
on the Digest. The lawyers and intellectuals of twelfth-century Pisa sustained 
this revival. At the same time in Kiev the law responded to matters of trade. In 
north-western Europe intellectual activity and teaching, though less driven by 
responses to a business environment than in the south, came to be one facet 
of the reputation of cities. Philosophers responded in new ways to towns and 
trade. They noted the city as a place of order and communal justice, and gave 
the mechanical arts, including mercantile activity and building, a new place in 
the scheme of knowledge. The depiction of crafts in cathedral sculpture and 
painting may reflect a similar appreciation. Conversely, geometry made a more 
distinct contribution to regularity, in both building and town planning. 

A wide range of narrative writing in western Europe in the twelfth century 
betrays a new interest in cities, precise topographical detail sometimes being 
combined with laudatory or satirical description. The history of a town and its 
monuments, legendary or otherwise, now began to make a new contribution 
to its fame. A life of St Thomas of Canterbury begins with a long account of 
London, noting the distinctive life of the waterfront, sports and drama, as well 
as the dignity of the citizens. Through the eyes of Gawain, Chretien de Troyes 
about 1190 evoked an idealised but glittering urban landscape of fortifications, 
crafts and markets that would have struck a chord in many parts of Europe. 

Most of these developments were, ultimately, the outcome of trade. Outside 
Italy and a small area of the Low Countries the level of urbanisation was low, 
but there had been a remarkable increase in the scale of trade and manufactures 
and in the number and size of towns. Despite wide differences in climate, local 
resources, population densities, intensity of exchange and political frameworks, 
the experiences of different regions of Europe had much in common. There 
were two prevailing themes. One concerns the growth of population, rural 
resources and local exchange, already dramatic in northern Italy by the early 

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Towns and the growth of trade 


eleventh century, but becoming apparent successively elsewhere. The other 
concerns integration and the degree to which markets, initially of localised 
scope and always doing much of their business in the immediate vicinity of 
the town, enabled towns and regions to develop complementary specialisms in 
manufactures or in handling primary goods. New landscapes of commodities 
and urban identities emerged. In particular, the urban network became more 
distincdy hierarchical, with certain key cities strengthening their commercial 
influence over widening regions, regardless of political structures. Especially 
important was the strengthening of links between the south and the north. 
While on the eve of the fall of Constantinople, European commerce and 
towns were still not to be compared with their established counterparts in the 
Byzantine and Muslim worlds, they displayed a pattern of growth, an expansive 
force and a buccaneering spirit which indicated the future. 

1. Towns of Europe and the Mediterranean region 

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Susan Reynolds 

A good many historians of this period prefer to use the word lordship rather than 
government. The reason may be that, whereas government suggests an imper- 
sonal and public authority, lordship implies the more personal and less public 
kind of political power that is often held to have characterised the eleventh cen- 
tury, if not the twelfth as well. The typical ruler of the time, according to this 
view, was the ‘feudal lord’, whose authority over his free or noble subjects was 
founded on the personal and voluntary contract of vassalage, and whose au- 
thority over peasants was founded on his proprietary rights over their holdings. 
Such collective activities as are envisaged in this world of essentially personal 
relationships were to be found chiefly among peasants and townspeople. Before 
the ‘communal movement’ of the twelfth century, however, even they did not 
form communities of any great solidarity. When popular solidarity developed 
it is often thought to have been soon, if not immediately, directed at securing 
a measure of collective independence from lords: lordship and community 
were thus essentially opposed to each other. It is the contention of this chapter 
that these views of government and community in the eleventh and twelfth 
centuries are inadequate. On the one hand, government was something more 
than personal lordship: the belief in the absence of any general sense of public 
welfare and public responsibility seems to rest on nothing but old stereotypes 
of feudal society . 1 Once any lord had exercised political control fairly effectively 
over an area for some time, his authority was legitimised by prevailing ideas 
about custom, lawful subjection and good order. He was regarded as having a 
duty to protect his subjects and treat them justly, while they were regarded as 
having a duty to obey him. In other words, irrespective of its historical origin, 
his power was not merely power but public authority, with obligations to the 
public welfare - the welfare of his subjects, who, because they constituted a 
unit of public and legitimate government, were therefore perceived as forming 

1 Reynolds (1994), pp. 17— 47. 


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Government and community 

8 7 

some kind of community. 1 When groups of subjects complained or rebelled, 
they seem to have generally done so in order to defend the same traditional 
values that their ruler was supposed to uphold. 

Government at every level, from that of kingdoms down to villages or estates, 
depended on a great deal of collective activity. Every ruler had to take counsel 
with his leading subjects if only because he would need to rely on them to carry 
out his commands: if his nobles did not agree to go to war and raise forces 
from their followers a king would have a small army. The raising of taxes, the 
arrest of criminals, the judging of disputes had to be done collectively because 
even a ruler with the most loyal and efficient servants could not afford enough 
of them to do all he wanted. Indeed the most effective governments tended to 
evoke the most collective activity: the better law and order were maintained and 
the more taxes were raised, then the more panels of unpaid subjects would be 
needed to report crimes, deliver judgements and assess taxes. In the absence of 
guns and tanks to coerce them, even unfree peasants could be most effectively 
exploited if they could be induced to take it in turns to organise each other 
and take collective responsibility for dues and services. 

These practical realities were reflected in assumptions and ideas about com- 
munities and lawful subordination. One of the assumptions that made subor- 
dination seem lawful and tolerable was that any unit of social and political life 
which endured for more than a few generations came to be regarded not as a 
mere piece of territory that happened to be ruled by sheer force - though in 
reality it might well have originated in that way - but as a community of culture 
and descent. Such communities were referred to in Latin as gentes, nationes or 
populi. It may be misleading to lay too much emphasis on particular words, 
especially words in a language that may have offered only a vague approxima- 
tion to so many different vernaculars. All three of these words could be used in 
senses that had no connotations of social or political collectivity. Nevertheless, 
they could also all be used, more or less interchangeably, with distinctly polit- 
ical implications. In some contexts populus could mean the common people 
as opposed to nobles. Some writers defined gens and natio so as to distinguish 
collective groups of different sizes or character, but few, if any, followed their 
own definitions consistently and most others were unaware of them. The im- 
portant point is that in many contexts all three words were applied to groups 
that corresponded to units of government. Their use in such contexts suggests 
that a kingdom was perceived as an area inhabited by a people - a populus, gens 
or natio that needed a king because, as a natural unit of society, it was also a 
natural unit of government. The names of kingdoms were the names of the 
peoples that were thought to compose them. The same seems sometimes to 

2 Reynolds (1997), passim. 

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have applied to counties, provinces or lordships. A twelfth-century history of 
Count Geoffrey of Anjou (d. 1151) and his ancestors told how th t Andegavorum 
gens was famed for its warlike rulers and the fear it induced in neighbouring 
peoples ( circumfusis nationibus ). 3 It was probably only the subjects of relatively 
important and independent units of government, like Anjou, that merited 
words like gens or natio, but some of the same quality of community was also 
attributed to smaller and less independent areas. 

New kingdoms sometimes needed new names, which might take some time 
to be agreed and then recorded in Latin texts that have survived for our in- 
formation. The name Franci was much too glorious and well established to 
have been lost when the Frankish empire collapsed, but it was used incon- 
sistently until new solidarities were formed and terminologies developed to 
express them. By the eleventh century the names of West and East Franks 
were no longer adequate to denote the two kingdoms that became France and 
Germany. The eastern kingdoms lack of an agreed name before the twelfth 
century has been taken to suggest its lack of unity, but it is hard to believe that 
soldiers who followed Conrad II or Henry III to Italy, even if they thought 
of themselves primarily as Saxons, Bavarians, Swabians or whatever, did not 
feel a wider solidarity as the subjects and soldiers of their great kings and em- 
perors, whatever they called his kingdom. By the eleventh century outsiders, 
and notably Italians, were referring to them all as Teutonici, a name adapted 
from the earlier word used for their language ( lingua theodisca, todesca, teutisca, 
etc.). The name regnum Teutonicorum appears soon after. Other communities, 
established long before the kingdom had existed, still functioned as units of 
government within it. The inhabitants of Swabia, for instance, whether or not 
Latin chroniclers called them Suevi or Alemanni, needed a name - or names - 
because they were a political community of the kind that was sometimes called 
a gens. The particular name of any people mattered less than the sense of a 
governmental entity that required to be called something just because it was 
an entity. 

In the western half of the former Carolingian empire, where many counts 
or other lords were effectively independent of their king in the eleventh and 
earlier twelfth centuries, it was even more obvious to contemporaries that the 
subjects of these lords formed the kind of distinct entities that might rise to the 
scale of being called gentes, nationesor populi. Consciousness oflarger categories 
did not disappear but became variable according to context and circumstance. 
In eleventh-century France Franci were sometimes the inhabitants of northern 
France, in contrast, for instance, with Aquitainians, and were sometimes only 
those immediately subject to royal authority, in contrast, for instance, with 

3 John of Marmoutier, ‘Historia Gaufredi ducis Normannorum et comitis Andegavorum’. 

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Government and community 


Normans. Sometimes they seem to include everyone in the kingdom that 
was now the kingdom of the Franks or French ( Franci ), rather than the West 
Franks, though it is difficult to believe that many people were more sure of its 
boundaries than are modern historians. Meanwhile, by the eleventh century 
the lordships and kingdoms of Christian Spain had gained sufficient solidarity, 
despite shifting frontiers and internal divisions, to retain their separate identities 
for centuries within a kaleidoscope of dynastic combinations. 

The use of collective names was thus an invariably accurate expression less 
of current political realities than of a political attitude or assumption that was 
all the more influential for being inarticulate and unreasoned. Any unit of 
government that had become established in custom was assumed to be the 
kind of natural community of both descent and custom that had characterised 
human society since the tribes descended from the sons of Noah had spread 
over the earth. The way that many chroniclers wrote about the origin and 
history of their own and other peoples is evidence of the common assumption 
that the political units of the chroniclers time were ancient and natural units. 
It was an unjustified assumption. Medieval gentes were primarily political units 
of more heterogeneous origins than their stories implied. They certainly were 
not races in the sense of having physically inherited characteristics that could 
have come from having long been a separate breeding population and that 
distinguished them from their neighbours. They were nearer to being units of 
common culture, though not very near, since variations of custom and language 
between political units were often no greater than those within them. None of 
these misfits mattered. People took it for granted that culture was transmitted 
along with physical characteristics, as we now know that it is not. Since they 
believed that gentes were real and objective entities, each with its own descent 
and culture, they saw what they believed was there. That makes their beliefs all 
the more significant: a belief that merely recognises what is obvious is hardly 
worth mentioning. As it was, the universal assumption that peoples were real 
and permanent entities reflects ideas about society and politics that explain a 
degree of solidarity and submission to rulers that is hard to attribute to purely 
interpersonal bonds. 

Twelfth-century historians of the Normans knew that their rulers had once 
been Danes, who in turn were ultimately descended from Trojans, but they 
did not find it necessary to consider how many inhabitants of Normandy were 
descended from Danes and how many from Franks. Histories concentrated on 
rulers and nobles but only because they were the people who mattered: there 
is no suggestion that only the nobles were thought to be Normans (or Danes) 
while peasants were subjected Franks. For Orderic Vitalis the Normans who 
were descended from Trojans were the inhabitants of the duchy of Normandy 
as it was constituted in his own day. Many medieval historians, like many 

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modern ones, seem to have started with the idea of their gens or nation as 
an objective reality and then traced its history. For Henry of Huntingdon 
or William of Malmesbury the English people, although formerly divided 
into separate gentes with their separate kingdoms, had been an entity before 
it formed the single kingdom that was its manifest destiny. Exceptions were 
noted in such a way as to imply the rule that made them exceptional: King 
Stephen of Hungary (d. 1038) advised his son to welcome immigrants coming 
from different places with different languages and customs: a kingdom with 
only one language and one way of life ( unius moris) was weak and vulnerable. 4 
William of Apulia maintained that the Norman invaders of south Italy taught 
their way of life and language to those who joined their forces so as to create one 
people. 5 Fulcher of Chartres marvelled at how in Palestine all kinds of people, 
Franks and Romans, had forgotten their native lands, married together and 
with natives, and, combining their languages, become one community united 
by their single faith. 6 

Not all immigrants were easily absorbed and united. Just because political 
communities were such a basic assumption of political life, a violent inva- 
sion and conquest that broke the old sense of legitimacy could create long 
resentments. It took generations before the sense of a community of the realm 
overcame the scars left by the Norman Conquest of England. At the very end of 
our period Giraldus Cambrensis thought that the English were still wretchedly 
enslaved to the Normans, so that they had become slaves by nature. He was 
being a mite tendentious. Well before his time a good many people whose 
ancestors (or one of whose ancestors) had come from Normandy thought of 
themselves in many contexts as English. 7 A sense of community was being re- 
stored, consolidated not only by hostility to enemies outside, whether French, 
Welsh or Scots, but by an exceptionally tough centralised government that 
united its subjects both in resentment against its demands and in all the collec- 
tive activities that its demands made necessary. The immensely popular history 
of Geoffrey of Monmouth may have gained some of its appeal from the way 
it cut across the divisions caused by recent invasions to show Britain as a unit 
in which, Welsh and Scots could claim a degree of independence, the king of 
England had supreme authority over the whole island, and in which, in the 
end, everyone could claim some kind of descent from Trojans. 

There are, of course, many units of government about whose origins we 
have no stories which imply such clear ideas about peoples. We cannot know, 
for instance, whether th e. gens Andegavorum was thought to have existed before 

4 PL 151, col. 1240. 5 Guillaume de Pouille, Geste de Robert Guiscard i, line 168. 

6 ‘ lingua diversa iam communis facta utrique nationi fit nota et iungit fides quibus est ignota progenies : 
Historia Hierosolymitana m.xxxvii. 

7 Gillingham (1995). 

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Government and community 


it had counts because surviving works from this period concentrate on the 
counts and refer to their subjects only in passing. It is, however, remarkable 
how many towns had their own descent myths which ignored the continuous 
immigrations that supported their populations. In practice, some groups re- 
mained outsiders. Traders who secured collective privileges in a foreign town 
might retain a separate collective identity, especially if they kept up contact 
with their homes or if their privileges included a right to be tried according 
to their own laws. Being treated as a collective unit was not always a mark of 
liberty. Jews were condemned to be outsiders everywhere and their exclusion 
became fiercer with the crusades. Dispersed and persecuted though they were, 
they were nevertheless seen as a people of common descent and common cul- 
ture, showing the reverse side of beliefs about peoples in general. Charters of 
protection - of a kind - were granted to local communities of Jews and they 
were not only massacred as individuals but sometimes made to take collective 
responsibility for each other’s debts. 

While the distinctiveness of each people’s customs and laws might seem to 
have more practical import than their mythical histories, a people’s common 
and distinctive body of law was hardly less a matter of faith than was their 
common descent. Customary law varied from place to place and from time 
to time. What particular rules or procedures were involved when Henry III 
gave the Hungarians German law ( scita Teutonica ) are difficult to envisage . 8 A 
later version of the story made his gift that of Bavarian law but, though that 
would have constituted a slightly more coherent body of custom, the differ- 
ence is only one of degree. The point was not the details of the law in practice 
but the German chroniclers’ idea that the Hungarians’ supposed acceptance 
of German - or Bavarian - law was a symbol of their subjection: independent 
peoples had their own laws. Even twelfth-century canonists and glossators, 
who tended to assume or extol the universality of canon or Roman law, seem 
to have accepted that in practice all peoples, whether forming kingdoms or 
provinces, had their own local customs or laws. When a twelfth-century bishop 
of St David’s in Wales claimed independence from the archbishop of Canter- 
bury he made the point that his people differed from those of Canterbury in 
nation, language, laws, way of life, judgements and customs . 9 Although the 
Welsh did not form a single kingdom their hostility to the English cemented 
their sense of being a people - a people distinguished from the English by 
different laws and customs. 

Language could be another distinctive mark of a separate people, as it was 
between Hungarians and Germans, Welsh and English, and, at first, Normans 

8 Annals of Niederaltaich, 1044 . 

9 ‘natione lingua legibus et moribus iudiciis et consuetudinibus : Bernard of St David’s quoted by Gerald 
of Wales, De invectionibus n.vii. 

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9 2 


and English. In all these cases difference of language confirmed political hos- 
tilities and solidarities. In other cases different languages coexisted under the 
same government and did not inhibit, even if they hampered, the development 
of political solidarity. However inconvenient differences of language might be 
in practice — and the long use of a kind of French in what the English came to 
call their common law suggests that this can be exaggerated - language did not 
come to be regarded as a vital component of the idea of a nation for centuries. 
In any case, eleventh- and twelfth-century ideas about nations or peoples did 
not need to be consistent because they were assumed and therefore uncontro- 
versial. Whereas today supposedly common descent and supposedly common 
culture are seen as reasons for being a separate state, in the middle ages they 
were simply assumed to be the attributes of existing political units. The idea 
of nations or peoples therefore had little revolutionary potential and did not 
have to be argued. 

There is not very much in the way of academic political theory from this 
period, but what there is, like the less systematic thought that is reflected in 
chronicles, charters and laws, suggests that political thought started, not with 
separate individuals, but with groups. John of Salisbury’s analogy of the res 
publica to a body does no more than express old assumptions in a learned and 
sophisticated metaphor. Emphasis on the group did not mean that individual 
rights were ignored: virtually all charters of liberties, from that granted to the 
people of Nonantola (Emilia) in 1058 to Magna Carta or the Golden Bull 
of Hungary, both just after our period, contained clauses that were intended 
to protect individuals from arbitrary oppression. Ideas about justice, public 
welfare and good government did not, however, start from the individualist 
and egalitarian premises that have developed since the seventeenth century. 
Individuals were born into gentes as they were born into families, and they 
were born under the authority of the ruler or rulers of their gens. Peoples or 
nations were seen not as collections of equal individuals but as communities 
composed of different orders, each of which fulfilled its due function according 
to custom and right order. Governments had authority to control - though 
not to monopolise - the legitimate use of physical force and to coerce their 
subjects, provided they acted justly and in accordance with custom. Where 
they achieved reasonable success their territories were therefore as worthy to 
be thought of in our terms as states as are many in the twentieth century. In 
their terms the equivalent of what we call states were peoples, understood in a 
sense that implies a collective existence: they were communities. 

Nobles, it is true, often thought of themselves as bound to obedience only 
so far as they had freely granted it, and liked to think of their obligation to their 
king or lord as one which arose from what might now be called an affective 
interpersonal relationship. This should not be taken at face value. In many 

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Government and community 


societies it is common to envisage obligations in personal, affective terms, 
ignoring the structures within which individuals act and which constrain their 
activities but which they take for granted. People of high status in particular like 
to think of their obligations as voluntary and personal. The honour of free men 
demands that they seem to be bound only by their own voluntary submission. 
Medieval nobles who claimed to be free of obligations because they had not 
done fealty or homage were, however, not exempt from charges of treachery: 
unless they left their countries they were still part of the community and had 
to reckon with its demands. As for people at the bottom of society, who had no 
option about their obligations, there is plenty of evidence that they harboured 
resentments, especially when obligations were increased in contravention of 
custom, but little to suggest that they rejected the general structure of authority. 
A belief in the kinds of human equality that modern liberals or socialists 
cherish does not seem to be one that has been widely shared through human 
history, so that there is no reason why medieval peasants should have held it in 
defiance of the conventions of their time, however much we may think they 
should have. Government could not have worked as well as it did without 
the solidarities engendered by the belief that the subjects of any government, 
however unjust the government and however unequal the subjects, were a 
natural community of common descent and common customs. Nor would its 
failures and injustices have been resented as they were without this belief. Rulers 
had supreme authority, but it was an authority to rule justly and according to 
custom. They might declare custom on behalf of the community but could 
not create it unilaterally. Because government was supposed to be conducted 
for the benefit of its subjects and because the subjects formed a community 
in which great and small were supposed to be treated justly according to their 
station, the leading members of that community were thought to have the 
duty, as well as the right, to speak out when its ruler overrode its customs and 
acted as a tyrant. 

As a result of these ideas, the rights and obligations of groups did not have 
to be explained or justified in terms of their being the sorts of groups that had 
the right to act as what much later law would call ‘legal persons’ or ‘corporate 
bodies’ with ‘legal personality’. This is important when one comes to consider 
the nature, causes and effects of the ‘communal movement’ of the twelfth 
century. By the end of the middle ages governments were using professional 
lawyers to inhibit popular action, so that legal systems began to develop rules to 
divide groups (corporations or legal persons) that were allowed to act as if they 
were individuals from groups that were not. So ingrained had this distinction 
become by the nineteenth century that many historians then thought that the 
communes of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries had achieved a new kind of 
unity by acquiring legal personality as corporate groups. Since the nineteenth 

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century virtually all attempts to define communes and identify what was new 
about them have started by assuming this distinction and have read special 
significance into words like communa and universitas, as if their use necessarily 
implied a new sense of corporateness. In this period, however, both lords 
and people lived in the same collectivist world and felt no need for any law 
of corporations. Groups were always allowed to take responsibility and were 
often required to do so - provided they were not seen as subversive. From the 
early middle ages local groups were punished collectively and taxed collectively, 
sometimes being left to assess and collect contributions to penalties or taxes 
for themselves - though, of course, the larger landowners in any group, and 
perhaps the lord of the whole area (unless he was doing the punishing or taxing) 
would be expected to take the lead. All kinds of groups, some with no fixed or 
permanent membership, held property and were allowed to appear in court to 
defend or claim it. If they claimed freedom from dues, or a freedom of action 
that their lords did not want to concede, then their cases might well be dismissed 
and occasionally they were told that they could not act collectively. The groups 
that were allowed to act collectively, however, were not distinguished from those 
that were not in any way that can be made to correspond with the modern 
distinction between corporations, or potentially incorporable groups, and the 
rest. The distinction between corporate and unincorporated groups did not 
develop for some centuries . 10 

That is not to say that the twelfth century did not see a great development 
of collective activities in the countryside, in towns and in the government of 
kingdoms and provinces. It did: but in trying to explain what happened we 
must get out of our heads all the residues of nineteenth-century legal ideas 
about communes or universitates as collectivities that by definition embodied 
some special and new kind of unity. It may be that what changed collective 
activities was something to do not with the nature of groups as such but with 
the environment in which they functioned. Growing populations and growing 
economies were provoking new kinds of disputes. Neighbours of similar status 
had to compete more intensely for land or trade. Even more important, con- 
flict between those who paid dues and services and those who received them 
and wanted more was becoming more focused and more articulate. Grow- 
ing literacy was making it possible for governments at every level to exploit 
their subjects more efficiently, to communicate over wider areas, to control 
their officials, and to keep records about everything. It was natural, in a world 
that took communities and collective activity for granted, that people with 
common interests should negotiate collectively with other groups and with 
their rulers and, by the twelfth century, that the bargains they struck should 

10 Reynolds (1995). 

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Government and community 


come to be recorded in charters or lists of customs. While there is little ev- 
idence that the first negotiations and bargains were provoked by new ideas, 
their effect was to stimulate new demands. Words like commune ( communa , 
communia, communio, etc.) acquired new and varied connotations in the new 
and varied circumstances in which they were used. Other words like consul or 
res publica came into use, or wider use, as academic education expanded, so 
that the prestige of ancient Rome was conferred on new civic governments. 
As all government became more formally structured, so did that of collective 
groups. Meanwhile the professionalisation of government and law created new 
rigidities, focusing and clarifying the disputes provoked by conflicts of eco- 
nomic interest and governmental power. In the long run the new practices, 
new disputes and new ways of arguing about them would stimulate entirely 
new ideas about rights, obligations and the right ordering of society. That, 
however, was far in the future in 1204. 


Towns were growing fast everywhere throughout this period and their history 
offers the most famous examples of collective activity. In Italy, where urban 
communities were relatively large and long established, and where Venice had 
long been entirely independent, many other cities began to take over more of 
their own government during the eleventh century. A few bishops and some 
lay lords objected when urban communities took over powers they had once 
exercised, but many were eased out without much conflict, while emperors 
recognised hard facts - and won themselves useful allies - by granting charters 
of liberties. During the twelfth century the word commune came into use 
to describe city governments but it does not seem to have had particularly 
revolutionary overtones. Frederick Barbarossa did not become embroiled in 
wars with the Lombard cities because they were communes or even because they 
had a measure of independence that was unknown and unwelcome to a German 
king. The fundamental causes of dispute were that Milan was strategically vital 
to him; that he wanted to recover rights that his predecessors had abandoned 
long ago and that Milan and the other Lombard cities had taken over; and that 
he wanted to define and record these rights. Rome, of course, was a special case. 
Neither pope nor emperor could tolerate collective autonomy there, however 
the collectivity was described. In fact, though historians often refer to the 
lay government that rebellious Romans set up on the Capitol in 1143 as a 
commune, the Romans themselves do not seem to have used the word. They 
called themselves by a far more evocative and ambitious title: Senatus Populusque 
Romanus. Frederick came to crush this overweening Roman republic for the 
pope in 1155, before ever he got involved in his Lombard wars. 

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Outside Italy, and especially in the north, towns started off with much 
less in the way of specially urban institutions. The distinctiveness of their 
economies, the needs of defence and toll collection, and their function as 
centres of government nevertheless gave their inhabitants good opportunities 
to work together in assemblies dealing with local government and law. By the 
eleventh century some traders and townsmen were also organising themselves 
more independently through club-like associations, often called fraternities 
or, in some parts of northern Europe, guilds, which engaged in convivial, 
religious and mutually supportive activities. Their character everywhere varied 
according to whether they were more given to drinking or piety, subversion or 
peace-keeping, and whether they were exclusive or forced people to join, but 
they shared a general character as voluntary associations that were run by their 
members for their own purposes. Their ideal was one of brotherliness, though, 
given medieval ideas of society, it was a brotherliness in which the richer and 
more substantial took the lead as elder brothers. Although they were by no 
means exclusively urban, they formed suitable vehicles for merchants who 
needed to club together for mutual protection and other common purposes. 
The men of Tiel (Gelderland) who claimed to have got the permission of 
the emperor to run their own affairs, apparently some time around the early 
1020S, look in Alpert of Metz’s account rather like a guild . 11 In England the 
close connection of early municipal governments with guilds is suggested by 
the way that town halls often became known as guildhalls. The way that 
guilds and fraternities were formed, made rules, owned property, negotiated 
with governments, and were permitted to do all these things so long as they 
did not seem subversive or threatening, makes them a perfect illustration of 
the medieval acceptance of collectivities and of the irrelevance of the modern 
distinction between corporate and unincorporated groups. 

In a good many towns outside Italy, townsmen, whether organising them- 
selves through their guilds or otherwise, negotiated their way to greater auton- 
omy almost as peacefully as Italians did, though they did it later and achieved 
less in the end. When there was trouble it was generally because of particular 
local conditions. Most of the towns where violent revolutions occurred lay 
under the government of bishops or abbots whose power was too localised to 
provide effective law and order in the surrounding area but who nevertheless 
contrived to be oppressive within the town in a way that seems to have been 
rare in Italy. The clergy of cathedrals and urban monasteries, moreover, were 
often anxious to keep firm control of the towns in which they stood and from 
which some received a lot of their income. Kings and lay lords were usually 
rather more ready to delegate authority, though not to towns that particularly 

11 Elenchus fontium historiae urbanae i, pp. 424-5. 

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Government and community 


mattered to them politically or strategically. Just as Rome and Milan were es- 
pecially sensitive in Italy, so London was liable to have its liberties withdrawn 
and Paris never got any worth noticing. 

The word commune first and famously got into the record in the sense on 
which historians of the ‘communal movement’ have concentrated when the 
people of the cathedral town of Le Mans in 1070 formed a sworn conspiracy 
that they called a commune ( coniurationem quam communionem vocabant) , 12 
Other towns in north France and over the border in the kingdom of Germany 
followed suit, with the most serious disturbances coming in towns with ecclesi- 
astical lords. In Germany they were sometimes made more serious by coinciding 
with external conflicts. As the twelfth century went on many towns in both 
kingdoms achieved some measure of autonomy, whether with or without char- 
ters, with less fuss. In Spain there were some notable early struggles for charters, 
with ecclesiastical lords among the unwilling grantors, but the needs of the fron- 
tier ensured that many towns were given a measure of independence along with 
their military responsibilities. In England some towns had negotiated deals with 
the king about taxes and military service before 1066, though at that date they 
had no charters to show for it. Later, when they did get charters, their liberties 
remained strictly limited and liable to revocation. The oppression they had to 
contend with was that of a forceful central government, which may have been 
more endurable than that of a local bishop, since it was combined with relatively 
effective peace-keeping and protection. Emphasis on the peaceful side of the 
growth of collective urban liberties is not intended to suggest that kings or lords 
granted liberties out of pure generosity or far-sighted appreciation of the value 
of promoting self-government. Except when a king or lord founded a new town 
to provide more rents or act as a fortress, or both, and wanted to attract settlers, 
it seems likely that every concession was a response to grievances, demands from 
the urban community, and sometimes offers of large sums of money. But the 
twelfth-century evidence will not bear the gloss put on it by nineteenth-century 
liberals who saw the ‘communal movement’ as a first stirring of popular govern- 
ment and a precursor of democratic revolutions. Eleventh- and twelfth-century 
townspeople seem to have resorted to violent revolution only when their rulers 
flouted the traditional norms of custom and consultative government. 

Modern historians have sometimes stressed the distinction between towns 
that were called communes and those that were not. The mark of a commune is 
sometimes thought to have been the collective oath taken by its members, which 
turned a local community ( communitas ) into something closer, more united, 
and therefore more revolutionary - a commune. The word seems, however, 
to have had less consistent connotations. By 1200 it was so well established 

12 Actus pontificum Cenomannis, p. 378. 

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in Italy as that which denoted an independent collective government that it 
was applied to the government as opposed to its subjects. In northern France 
some towns with a measure of autonomy had kept the name of commune 
that they had adopted in the heady days of rebellion while others took it over 
in more peaceful circumstances. By 1200 no one but a few nervous monks 
probably shivered when they heard it. Jacques de Vitry, who was very fierce 
in denouncing the wickedness and disorder of urban life, did not distinguish 
commune from communitates d 3 Nor is it clear that communes were particularly 
distinguished by the oath they imposed on their members. People who formed 
associations in moments of stress often took oaths to stick together. Because 
some communes were formed in such moments the word commune may have 
become associated with the taking of oaths but the association was not exclusive. 
The members of fraternities or guilds often took oaths, while town officials 
and councillors were generally sworn in, whether or not their towns were called 
communes. The automatic taking of oaths by all citizens or burgesses, on the 
other hand, may well have died away in many towns, whatever they were called, 
in times of peace when the need for commitment seemed less urgent. Apart 
from any other reason, few towns kept the kinds of registers that would have 
made compulsory oaths practical. 

One indication that municipal governments were seldom seen as inherently 
revolutionary is the way that contemporaries who bewailed their internal con- 
flicts or, less often, deplored their independence of external authority, made 
extraordinarily little of what seems to a historian their most obviously revolu- 
tionary characteristic: in a world of monarchies, the government of towns was 
not merely consultative, as was that of good monarchies, but republican. The 
lack of comment suggests the large measure of collective activity that was taken 
for granted in all local government and the even larger measure of effective 
autonomy that town assemblies often enjoyed even before they secured formal 
liberties. Townspeople, like all other groups, did not need to be communes 
or have charters of liberties to be able to negotiate collectively or litigate col- 
lectively, let alone to take collective responsibility for raising taxes or paying 
penalties. The real change achieved in the twelfth century was not that towns 
gained a new unity or new capacity for collective activity. It was that some 
of them, whether or not they were called communes, gained a new degree of 
freedom and power in carrying out their collective decisions. This was a real 
and important change but we should not exaggerate or distort it by ignoring 
the collective element in all government. 

Another reason why the republican nature of town governments was so sel- 
dom commented on, provided it was peacefully achieved, was that the uses 

13 Giry, Documents , pp. 58-62. 

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Government and community 


to which they put their varying measures of independence were so unrevolu- 
tionary. Everywhere the richer and most established citizens or burgesses took 
the lead and were expected to do so. When the emperor Henry IV granted 
a charter to Pisa in 1081, the twelve men who were to give their assent to his 
appointment of a marquis for Tuscany were to be elected by an assembly sum- 
moned by bells. In the event those elected may have been the same, or some 
of the same, as those who had already negotiated the charter and had been 
chosen to do that because they already formed an elite or inner ring within the 
city’s legal and governmental assembly. In the twelfth century the councils or 
panels of citizens who ruled Italian cities generally came to be called consuls, 
while the short-lived Roman republic elected a patricius and senate. By the end 
of the century many Italian cities had a single podesta, who was supposed to 
stand above internal divisions and conflicts. 

When the town of Ipswich got a charter in 1200 it had to create its institutions 
from scratch, so the whole town met in the churchyard and elected ‘twelve 
sworn chief portmen, as there are in the other boroughs of England’. 14 They 
also elected a number of executives but no single presiding officer. As yet 
mayors, the characteristic chief officers of communes in northern France, were 
only just beginning to appear in English towns. A good many towns outside 
Italy managed without any single presiding officer while many smaller ones 
managed with only their courts or open assemblies, rather than councils, to 
supervise the few executives they needed. Even in the great Italian cities open 
assemblies continued to be held for important business, though most of the 
proposals to which crowds assented by shouting ‘Fiat, fiat’ would be put to the 
citizens by their ruling councils. 15 A good deal was decided, and expected to be 
decided, in private. By 1204 the size and, above all, the independence of Italian 
cities was stimulating them to develop more complex structures of courts and 
councils, while their administration was becoming professionalised, notably 
by the appearance of professional lawyers and judges in the courts that used 
Roman law. Craft courts, however, still followed the old collective procedures of 
customary law and there was still much work of all kinds to be done by councils 
or panels of unpaid citizens. Size, independence and wealth also produced 
more economic and social conflicts and more temptations to corruption and 
oppression. Evidence of this is visible by 1204 but there is little evidence that 
oppressed townspeople wanted more than to be governed more justly and with 
the customary consultation: sometimes they wanted new kinds of councils and 
sometimes they appointed single chief officers, but that was as far as new ideas 
about structures and methods of government seem to have gone. 

14 Gross, Gild Merchant 11, p. 117. 

15 Bonaini, Statuti inediti di Pisa 1, p. 18; Boncompagnus, Rhetorica novissima, p. 297. 

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As for the purposes of government, they were always the same: to maintain 
law and order, treat everyone justly according to their station, and protect, 
promote and regulate the town’s prosperity. One of the many collectivist as- 
sumptions of medieval government was that economies had to be regulated. 
It was sin or foolishness, not an inherent conflict of interests, that prevented 
rulers from regulating trade in the interests of everyone in the community. 
Where urban economies were sufficiently complex, trades and crafts had to be 
separately regulated. Independent municipal governments sometimes quashed 
the guilds that craftsmen had already formed to protect their own interests, or 
at least tried to bring them under closer control. The craft associations that 
urban governments approved and used instead were sometimes called guilds, 
but they were different in principle from the voluntary clubs and societies to 
which the word was more often applied. The craft associations that were used 
to regulate trade and industry worked through more or less explicitly imposed 
authority and normally controlled all practitioners of the craft within the town. 
Voluntary guilds or fraternities continued to exist alongside them, and often in 
close association with them, but the image of the brotherly, independent ‘craft 
guild’ is largely the creation of nineteenth-century historians. It has tended 
to obscure the degree to which medieval town governments controlled, and 
were expected to control, their trades and industries in the interests, not of the 
craftsmen, but of the whole community as they saw it. The only link between 
the ideas of brotherhood and sociability enshrined in the guild and the political 
economy that required that trades and crafts be controlled was the strongly 
collectivist character of the society in which the two coexisted. 


The local communities of the European countryside were almost certainly less 
structured before uoo than some of them became later. Given the collectivist 
habits and assumptions of the time, it is doubtful whether that means, as is 
sometimes maintained, that there were either no rural communities at all or 
only weak and fragmented ones. Some historians attribute the supposed lack of 
communal activity before the twelfth century to the more scattered settlement 
that seems to have characterised the early middle ages. Scattered settlement was, 
however, not universal, nor, though the growth of population enlarged many 
villages and concentrated the houses within them more closely, did it disappear 
later. In any case, though it is easy to see how geographical propinquity could 
facilitate collective activity, some very effective and independent communities 
in Alpine valleys and on North Sea coastal marshes managed without it in the 
twelfth century and later. Scattered settlement need not therefore in itself have 
inhibited collective activity and a sense of community before that time. Despite 

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Government and community ioi 

the scarcity of evidence there are, in fact, several indications that the collective 
activity that we see in the twelfth century was not unprecedented. In early 
eleventh-century Catalonia groups of inhabitants built local churches, bought 
woods and pastures, and engaged in disputes to defend their collective rights. 
In some areas of both north and south Europe woods or pastures were shared in 
a way that already needed some regulation, though this was less common, and 
the regulation was less strict, than it would be later when larger populations 
were pressing harder on the amount of waste that was left. Arable farming 
was also less regulated than it would later become in some areas of open-field 
husbandry, but both in those regions, and in others where there would never be 
formal regulation, holdings were sometimes so intermixed that a good deal of 
cooperation was nevertheless necessary. In some areas there were water-courses 
that provided irrigation or drainage and that must have needed cooperative 
maintenance. Where labour services were owed they may sometimes have been 
provided by groups of various kinds, while both services and dues must often 
have pressed hard enough, even if not equally on all members of local groups, 
to provoke collective grumbling, if nothing more. 

Two other forms of collective activity were probably very widespread. It 
seems likely that the multiplication of parish churches throughout Europe in 
the eleventh century owed a good deal to lay demand. Peasants may often have 
had to provide only money or labour but, where lordship was weak or lords 
were not resident, they probably took a more active and organising part, as 
they had done in Catalonia since the ninth century. Everywhere, moreover, 
however much they did so under seigneurial command, peasant householders 
had to share responsibility for the maintenance of law and order. Although 
historians traditionally pay more attention to the military service of nobles at 
this time, a good many peasants seem to have been required to perform some 
kind of military duty. For the poorest it may have taken the form of supplying 
labour or provisions but at least some of the more prosperous had to do more. 
To judge from the remissions of military service in twelfth-century charters of 
liberties, the burden was heavy enough to provoke demands for exemption. 
Where lords made peasants serve in offensive armies collective cooperation 
might be minimal, but local policing and defence were another matter. In 
England all males over twelve years old were grouped into tithings for mutual 
policing, while the men of each village or locality had the duty of informing the 
man in charge of the hundred (a group of villages) about stolen cattle. Similar 
arrangements may have obtained in many areas. Whether local government 
was carried on through what historians call the ‘public’ assemblies of counties 
and hundreds or in the supposedly ‘private’ jurisdictions of castellanies, it 
worked through assemblies of the more established and respectable of the 
governed. Lords who had carved out territories for themselves around their 

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castles may have been in a good position to bully their subjects to accept extra 
obligations but they could not dispense with their cooperation. Lords and 
their officials, however tyrannical in intention, lived in a society where custom 
was supposed to rule, where decisions were supposed to proceed from the 
community whose custom was being followed, and where the senior members 
of the community, even if they were regarded as in some sense unfree, were 
expected to say what custom and justice required. The orders made at the 
assemblies that administered castellanies and manors or other lesser lordships, 
and did justice within them, had to be carried out and obeyed by those who 
attended, just as did those made at meetings of counties or hundreds. All this 
both presupposed and promoted a sense of community. 

Given the poverty of surviving sources in most areas before the twelfth cen- 
tury, given the customary acceptance of subordination by the governed, and 
given also the customary acceptance of a measure of consultation by the gov- 
ernors, it is very difficult to know how far any of these collective activities were 
at that stage independent of seigneurial control. That the interests of lords and 
peasants conflicted in many ways is fairly obvious. What the peasants thought 
or did about it is not. There is, however, some evidence that they sometimes 
organised themselves effectively enough to worry their lords. According to 
a story that had probably lost nothing through seventy years of repetition by 
frightened monks, some time around the beginning of the eleventh century the 
rustici of the whole of Normandy formed conventicula, each of which elected 
two representatives to a single meeting. They demanded to live according to 
their own laws and to use woods and waters freely. 16 When the count heard 
of it, the representatives had their hands and feet cut off and the rest were 
sent home to their ploughs. Less ambitious and revolutionary protests could 
however achieve something even before noo. One of the earliest local charters 
of liberties was issued by the abbot of Nonantola (Emilia) in 1058 to the whole 
people of Nonantola, then and in future. 17 The collective sense of populus is 
very clear here. The abbot promised the people secure rights of inheritance, 
and freedom from arbitrary arrest, assault, forfeiture of goods and demolition 
of their houses. He gave the whole populus all the land, woods, marshes and so 
on within stated bounds with the intention, it is clear, not that the property 
rights of individuals within the bounds should be overridden but that they 
would be held under the community instead of, or as well as, under him. 
Neither he nor his successors would grant anything within the stated bounds 
to anyone, except for the common profit of the populus. In return the populus 
undertook to build three-quarters of a wall round the settlement while he was 

16 Guillaume de jurnieges, Gesta Normannorum Ducum , pp. 73-4. 

17 ‘ cuncto populo Nonantulensi nunc habitant i et in futuro habitaturo : Muratori, Antiquitates 3, p. 241. 

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Government and community 


to build the rest. Financial penalties for any infringement of the terms were 
set out for each side, those to be paid by members of the populus being graded 
for greater, middling and lesser. All this implies a considerable communal or- 
ganisation before the charter was granted. The abbot got something out of it 
but if he could have got the people to build the wall without making conces- 
sions he presumably would have. They had grievances, they acted collectively 
to get them removed, and they thought that they could organise the build- 
ing of the wall and the enforcement of the agreement in future. While there 
is no reason to suppose that people everywhere were equally united and well 
organised, or that similar occasions for collective activity arose in most villages, 
there is also none to suggest that the solidarity of the people of Nonantola was 

In the twelfth century, charters to local communities became quite common. 
Some did little more than fix dues, but they still presupposed the existence of 
the groups to which they were granted. Many, like the Nonantola charter, 
were granted to existing communities which already had enough solidarity to 
negotiate. Some were granted by lords who wanted to increase their incomes 
by getting unused land brought under cultivation and thought that they could 
attract settlers by offering fixed rents and a measure of self-government. Some 
settlers came in groups which may have been able to exert pressure on lords 
from the start. In others there was apparently no pre-existing community, but 
the charters nevertheless assumed the existence of a group, sometimes called a 
commune, that was cohesive enough to receive privileges and run its own affairs. 
Charters that recognised or established a commune did not always give more 
independence than those that did not. Villages, parishes, guilds and all kinds 
of quite amorphous groups held property, just as towns did, without getting 
charters or being called communes. Communia or communantia in any case 
sometimes meant nothing more than commons for grazing or other common 
property. In England, where villages did not apparently get charters of liberty 
as such, manors were being held and managed by villagers at annual rents 
as early as 1086. Some later arrangements of this kind gave the tenants more 
autonomy than some villages elsewhere got with their communes or charters. 
In 1168, when a tax was raised from tenants of English royal manors, some 
payments were listed as made by individuals but in some cases the commune 
ville accounted for a round sum. Two years later it was said that the whole soca 
of a Norfolk lord - presumably all those under his authority - had disputed 
with him about a pasture. 18 They had lost their claim and had had to pay 
him 52 s but there is no suggestion that they had not had the right to make a 
collective claim. 

18 Red Book of the Exchequer 11, p. cclxxvii (no. 46). 

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Just how local communities organised themselves, whether in villages or 
scattered settlements, is generally unknown. Generally speaking, it seems likely 
that external pressure from more formal procedures in government and law 
provoked more formal structures at the local level, and that these were likely 
to develop farthest where there was most independence. Some villages in areas 
where towns had consuls appointed consuls too, while French villages with 
communes often had mayors. In many cases, however, the only hint at internal 
structure we get is that a rural community was represented by a group of boni 
homines, probi homines or jurati, who may have been appointed ad hoc. In 
some cases the description may have been used to cover anyone who turned 
up at whatever occasion it was or the more weighty among them. Many rural 
communities were small enough to be able to manage their affairs through more 
or less open assemblies of householders or landholders which would appoint 
the executives or occasional panels they needed. Everywhere, as in towns, it 
was probably the richer who took the lead: we should not be sentimental about 
the happy democratic harmony which the expression ‘village community’ may 
suggest to modern readers. 

The not uncommon assumption that the firmer structures achieved by 
the ‘communal movement’ in the twelfth-century countryside automatically 
meant an increase of ‘community’ is in some ways paradoxical. When people 
talk of the value of community nowadays they generally seem to imply that 
community means voluntary togetherness, with a maximum of direct inter- 
action between the members of the community unmediated through officials 
and a minimum of coercion — something like the community of common will, 
custom and sociability that the nineteenth-century sociologist Tonnies called 
a Gemeinschaft. In so far as the ‘rural communes’ of the twelfth century devel- 
oped firmer and more formal structures, they may have moved away from this 
kind of community. Whether that means that they turned into the deliberate, 
ad hoc associations that Tonnies named Gesellschaften is doubtful. The problem 
is that the evidence for communities that look distinctly more like Gemein- 
schafien than Gesellschaften is so poor. This may be because of the poverty of 
evidence for the earlier period that should have been the age of Gemeinschaft. 
Later, when the evidence improves, shifting Gesellschaft- like associations seem 
to have been combined with assumptions about their proper working that 
look more appropriate to Gemeinschaften. That fits Tdnnies’ belief that the 
values of the earlier stage survived while the newer kind of association was 
beginning to prevail in practice, but it raises a more serious problem. The 
whole typology seems to have been constructed by combining premises of so- 
cial evolution that look highly questionable today with a restricted selection of 
medieval and early modern evidence, interpreted in a highly sentimentalised 
and nostalgic way. The argument that connects the two kinds of association 

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Government and community 


with successive periods is therefore circular. The evidence that the twelfth cen- 
tury saw a change in character of collectivities beyond that imposed by external 
changes in economies and government is hard to find. 

Rural communities may have become less enclosed as trade expanded, but it 
is not at all clear that peasants earlier did not move about or that their collective 
activities were all carried on in the same closed ascriptive groups. If there is 
any truth in William of Jumieges’ story, the Norman peasants did not fit that 
pattern. Although there is so much less evidence for the beginning of our 
period, moreover, we have no reason to assume that the extraordinarily loosely 
defined and overlapping groups we find in the more abundant records of the 
twelfth century and later were an innovation. They could be a natural result 
of the collectivist habits of both periods: since any group could act together 
for any purpose, provided it was not rebellious, rural collective activity in 1024 
may have been shaped to what was needed in a supposedly Gesellschafi - like 
way as it was in 1204 and later. The group that collaborated to build a church 
need not have been the same group as collaborated to fence a field or oppose a 
lord. In some ways collective action may have become more constrained within 
rigid units when custom became fossilised in written records. In the nineteenth 
century and even later some parishes and local government areas still reflected 
the boundaries set respectively by church-building and charters of liberties 
in the twelfth century. Some Tuscan villages produced separate communes in 
the twelfth century for elites (known as milites or lambardi ) and for peasants, 
whereas earlier the different groups might have moved in and out of association 
with each other as the occasion required - and as they went on doing in other 
areas. On the whole, however, records of collective activity continue to suggest 
much vagueness about boundaries, categories and membership. 


The nature of the communities that operated at the higher level of counties and 
duchies, or at the highest level of kingdoms, is still more complex and obscure. 
At this level, one might suppose that the only real, affective community of 
frequently interacting individuals would be the ruler’s household, warband or 
immediate kin, or a combination of all three. Yet contemporaries saw things 
differently. The great men who from time to time met together to take counsel 
with rulers as representatives of the whole community were supposed to be 
bound together by the affective bonds of mutual loyalty. Even if the bonds 
were not effective, the practice of government, so far as it worked, involved 
meetings and consultation. Some of the councils summoned to institute and 
maintain the Peace of God in the eleventh century may have revived conciliar 
methods and a sense of public welfare in the parts of France where they were 

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held. If so, that was only because government there had broken down above the 
local level. In at least some areas peace councils were quite closely connected 
with regular seigneurial government. 19 Consultation was already ingrained in 
the practices of secular government. In the kingdoms of Germany and England, 
for instance, which can hardly be ranked as mere exceptions on the map of 
Europe, nobles were accustomed to attending meetings to discuss and decide 
disputes and policy and then to serving in armies to carry it out. 

Germans did not follow their kings to Italy merely for plunder or because 
each felt a personal obligation to his immediate lord: they surely also felt a 
duty to obey a royal summons and something like team spirit - the spirit of 
the top team in western Christendom. Some ignored their duty and some of 
them got away with it, but after Henry the Lion, the most powerful noble 
in Germany, combined absence of service with more open trouble-making 
he was punished. His punishment was ostentatiously imposed in 1180 by the 
judgement of the princes and everyone present in a great royal assembly. A 
few decades earlier Otto of Freising had disapproved of the way he thought 
Hungarian criminals were punished by the will of the prince rather than by 
the judgement of their peers. In practice, of course, kings did not ask or 
take advice about everything nor were councils invariably harmonious. In the 
eleventh century the Bohemians complained that the emperor Henry III was 
overriding agreements they had made with Frankish kings. He replied that the 
custom ( mos ) was that kings always added new laws. He went on: ‘He who rules 
the laws is not ruled by law, for the law, as they say ( utaiunt vulgo ) , has a waxen 
nose and the king has a long and iron hand with which to twist it as he pleases.’ 20 
It was not only kings who were tempted to break the unwritten rules. Solidarity 
among their nobles was often broken by ambitions, resentments and mutual 
jealousies, as the case of Henry the Lion shows. Those are facts of any politics. 
Since few conflicts seem to have involved demands for formal separation from 
a kingdom, however, it cannot be assumed that conflict as such was inimical to 
community. In Germany repeated failures of heirs gave scope for the election 
of kings, which in turn gave scope for conflict between ambitious men. Even 
so, despite papal efforts to divide the princes of Germany during the troubled 
years after 1198, they repeatedly united behind the best candidate for election 
as king that they could find. 

In Italy a German king’s programme, if heat, disease and opposition allowed, 
was to travel around, as Conrad II did in 1026, holding councils and royal meet- 
ings in suitable places. By then he had already dealt with Pavia, where the royal 
palace had been attacked and looted during the interregnum before his arrival. 
To the Pavians’ excuse that they had done no wrong because there had been no 

19 Martindale (1992). 20 Cosmas of Prague, Chronik der Bohmen n.viii. 

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Government and community 


king at the time, Conrad, according to his biographer Wipo, pointed out that 
a kingdom survived its king just as a ship survives its helmsman. The palace 
was public, not private, property and did not belong to them. Some historians 
have suggested that Conrad (or Wipo) was here taking a more sophisticated 
view than was common in the eleventh century, with its supposedly ‘personal’ 
view of political relations. That, however, presupposes that there is something 
unmedievally sophisticated about ‘transpersonal’ government and the sense of 
public welfare and duty. 

In England government was already effective enough at the end of/£thelred’s 
reign to provoke demands for more just government, addressed first to him 
and then to Cnut, who made quite specific promises to relieve past oppres- 
sions. In 1051, when the greatest earl in the kingdom was in rebellion, peace 
was patched up because, according to a chronicler, people did not want to 
fight with other Englishmen, whom they saw as their own kin ( agenes cynnes 
mannuni), or leave the way open for foreign invasion while they were doing 
so. 21 Even at this stage the kingdom of England was starting to develop the kind 
of record-keeping government that would so noticeably change the character 
of collective activity in the twelfth century. The internal rebellions and French 
wars that followed the Norman Conquest favoured its further development. 
Demands for taxes, military service and appearances in royal courts, which 
in turn produced occasions for the imposition of penalties, not only stimu- 
lated subjects to unite against the government but show how the growth of 
professional bureaucracy in a kingdom, as in Italian cities, did not diminish 
the need for unprofessional service alongside. Meanwhile, in Scotland, where 
there was no comparable bureaucratic development, the king’s awareness of his 
people as a whole, beyond his immediate courtiers and nobles, is reflected in 
the address of royal charters. From the 1140s they were addressed not to bish- 
ops, earls and so on but to all the good men ( omnibus probis hominibus) of the 
realm. 22 

In the Spanish kingdoms the stimulus to collective activity, if any was needed, 
came both from military needs and from opposition to royal efforts to control 
law and order. In 1188 the king of Aragon had to abandon the exclusive use of 
his own officials to keep the peace in Catalonia. The concessions he made were 
said to be agreed for the common welfare ( comunis utilitas, publica utilitas) 
by the archbishop, certain bishops, and all the magnates or barons of his land 
(i.e. Catalonia). Among much else the king-count promised not to appoint 
any vicarius who was not a Catalan. Four years later further legislation was 
proclaimed not only to clergy, magnates and knights, but to other good men in 
both towns and villages and to the people ( ceteris tam civitatum quam villarum 

21 Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, d 1051. 22 Barrow (1992). 

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probis huminibus et populo ). 23 In Leon Alfonso IX held his first great court in 
1188 in the presence of the archbishop, bishops, magnates and citizens chosen 
from, or elected by, every city {et cum electis civibus ex singulis civitatibus) . 24 He 
swore to keep the good customs {mores) of his predecessors and to maintain 
peace and justice in his whole realm, and he promised not to make war, peace 
or treaty ( placitum ) except by the advice of the bishops, nobles and good men 
by whom he ought to be ruled. In Castile in the same year bishops, nobles and 
representatives of towns took oaths to fulfil Alfonso VIII’s marriage treaty. In 
the context of government and community in the twelfth century the teleology 
of deciding whether these events qualified as possible candidates for the ‘first 
representative assemblies’ or ‘first meeting of estates’ of Europe is irrelevant. 
The point here is that kingdoms (and, in the case of Catalonia, a county) were 
being treated as communities that were supposed to be consulted by their rulers 
and were supposed to support him in government. Towns were brought into 
the process of consultation and responsibility because they played a vital part 
in government and defence. 

In spite of what Abbot Suger represented as the united resistance of the whole 
kingdom of France (except Normandy) to German invasion in 1124, there is 
not much evidence that the vestigial sense of community in the kingdom of 
France developed significantly before the last decades of the twelfth century. It 
may indeed have been further eroded when Normandy was subsumed into the 
Angevin dominions so that the king had to face almost constant trouble from 
the effectively detached western half of his kingdom. Political solidarities were, 
however, meanwhile being extended over wider areas as great lords extended and 
intensified their authority. The murder of Charles the Good in 1127 produced 
over a year of conflict and slaughter in Flanders but the account of Galbert of 
Bruges suggests a widespread sense that nobility, knights and towns, however 
divided about the candidates, shared a common interest in the choice of a new 
count. When a count of Boulogne died without heirs in 1173 the succession 
there too was apparently regarded as a matter for the men of the land. In 
the far south William VIII, lord of Montpellier (d. 1202) had a remarkably 
well-organised record made of his rights and the stages by which he and his 
predecessors had extended their power. Montpellier, according to the statement 
of its customs entered in his Liber instrumentorum in 1190, had one lord who 
ruled his honour and people {populus) with the help and advice of his bajulus 
and of good and wise men to whom he gave enough to enable them to set 
aside their own business and attend court daily to do justice. 25 By that time, 
fourteen years before the conquest of Normandy, the activity of the royal court 

23 Cortes de Cataluna i, pp. 63, 67, 68. 24 Cortes de Leony de Castilla 1, pp. 39-40. 

25 Liber instrumentorum , no. 239. 

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Government and community 


suggests that Philip Augustus was beginning to awaken the latent solidarity of 
his kingdom. That it was still there to be woken was surely because kings and 
kingdoms were so deeply embedded in medieval thought about politics that 
kings started with an advantage that no other rulers enjoyed. 

The kingdom of Italy, it is true, finally fell apart at much the same time 
that that of France was coming together, but the strains there were exceptional. 
Apart from the rival presence of the papacy and the strong growth of urban 
communities, the German kings of Italy did not merely start as foreigners but 
remained foreign, irrupting into the kingdom from time to time to disturb 
customs that had become established in their absence. The contrast with the 
new kingdom of Sicily is striking. Its kings and its nobility started in the 
eleventh century as foreign invaders, but then became sufficiently settled and 
absorbed for the Regno to have developed a significant sense of community 
by 1189. To judge from what happened thereafter, the kings until then were 
perceived as members of the people that William of Apulia thought the Norman 
invaders had created. So was the young Frederick II after 1198. The sense of 
political unity must have been fostered here, as in England, by the pervasive 
royal bureaucracy. It was not bureaucracy, however, that created the ideas about 
kingdoms and peoples that enabled the kings of Sicily, their advisers and those 
who wrote about them to see a population of different languages and religions 
as constituting a single people - the people of a kingdom. 


Discussions about communes and other forms of collective activity in this 
period inevitably imply some kind of idea about the nature of community. 
Generally it seems to be assumed that communes, along with some, but not 
all, other forms of collective activity, possessed characteristics that gave them 
an emotional, as well as formal or legal, unity. Their members were not merely 
people who happened to be neighbours or to work together in some way: 
they were communities. The essential characteristics that have been attributed 
to such groups, whether explicitly or not, have been very various, reflecting 
the varied ideas about society and politics that modern historians bring to the 
medieval evidence. While more explicit definitions make it easier to distinguish 
modern from medieval ideas, however, ‘community’ is not a concept for which 
it seems possible to agree a definition, let alone to apply it to all societies. 
Whatever definition one may choose, moreover, no human collectivity is going 
to be a perfect community. It seems improbable, for instance, that any that 
involves more than occasional contacts and trivial purposes is going to rely 
on affect alone, without a measure of regulation and coercion. At best one 
might be able to assess various forms and degrees of ‘community-ness’, so that 

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medieval communities that come down the scale because they had too little 
equal reciprocity or too much coercion might nevertheless go up it because of 
their degree of participation and unmediated interaction. What they go up on, 
above all, is in their assumption of collective purposes and activities and in the 
ideal of harmony that was applied to all units of government, imperfectly as it 
was fulfilled and unreasonable as we may think it was to try to apply it at all. 

In considering how the character of communities changed in this period, one 
approach that should be dismissed at once is that which connects the growth 
of collective action or community with the attainment of legal personality. The 
old idea that communes or universitates were somehow more united than earlier 
groups had been and that they became so because of new legal ideas finds no 
support in the sources of the time. It seems, moreover, inherently improbable 
that legal or academic ideas could produce political unity in the way that this 
model implies. Today, while some historians seem to cling to residues of this 
interpretation, more see the apparent burgeoning of local communities in the 
twelfth century as provoked by an increase in economic conflict. There is no 
doubt that the interests of peasants generally conflicted with those of their 
lords, that at least some peasants resented seigneurial oppression, and that 
seigneurial pressure became more systematic in the twelfth century. Conflicts, 
oppressions and resentments were not, however, new then, nor was collective 
peasant activity. Besides, rural communities did not always or consistently 
exclude lords. They were much more fluid and variable than that. It may be 
easier to see economic change behind the rise of urban independence but it 
was only one factor in promoting urban solidarity and urban demands. Not 
all leading townsmen were merchants, and, while the rulers of every town 
were interested in protecting its trade, they had many other interests as well. 
Conflicts within towns, so far as they are visible in this period, often opposed 
the relatively poor to the relatively rich. These were not categories that had 
such directly conflicting economic interests as employers and employed. Such 
burgesses or citizens as were traders were for the most part self-employed. The 
regulation of trade caused disputes but most of the fiercest conflicts were about 
government as such - especially taxation - rather than about directly economic 
issues. A good deal of collective activity in the twelfth century cut across class 
lines and responded to more than economic interests. 

Nearly all modern interpretations of medieval communities start from two 
assumptions that need to be questioned. First, it is difficult today to avoid 
assuming that communal activities and values are necessarily more or less egal- 
itarian. If a true community involves multilateral, reciprocal interaction, and 
that in turn implies approximate equality between the interacting individu- 
als, then few groups in the eleventh and twelfth centuries would count as 
communities. Some might, such as guilds and fraternities, for the model of 

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Government and community 


brotherhood was distinctly egalitarian, but, while the metaphor of brother- 
hood was pervasive, the medieval idea of community included strong elements 
of inequality and hierarchy. Different orders of society belonged together be- 
cause each needed the others. Whatever the conflicts of interest between rulers 
and subjects, great and small, rich and poor, they all acted within a dominant 
system of values that assumed that interests could be harmonised if only sin 
could be restrained. The second common assumption that needs to be con- 
fronted and questioned is that medieval communities were essentially local. 
Local communities certainly involved more regular interaction than did wider 
ones and they are well recorded in accounts of disputes and charters of liberties 
that draw attention to collective activities. But the way that contemporaries re- 
ferred to kingdoms and provinces, gentes and nationes, shows that these entities 
too were perceived as communities of a real and affective kind. However little 
the perception corresponded with reality, it influenced the way government 

Bringing together the different kinds of information we have about collec- 
tive activity in kingdoms and localities casts light on both. In kingdoms some 
sense of group solidarity seems to have preceded formal structures of govern- 
ment. That serves as a warning against taking the twelfth-century evidence of 
local structures as evidence that the local sense of community was new. Formal 
structures in the government of kingdoms did not preclude or destroy com- 
munitarian values: they seem to have developed them, stimulating loyalty and 
solidarity against outsiders at the same time as they stimulated resistance to 
demands for taxes and service. Some of the same factors may have operated at 
a humbler level, helping us to understand why local communities were only 
partly oppositional. Belief in harmonious community, along with belief in law- 
ful subordination, and with prudence and self-interest, enabled government at 
every level to contain a good deal of discontent. 

By 1204 rulers had conceded a great deal more formal autonomy to collective 
groups among their subjects than had been enjoyed in 1024. How far that 
implies a new strength of communitarian feeling is doubtful. Struggles for 
independence may have consolidated communities but the degree of their 
success was often related as much to political circumstances as to the amount 
of togetherness. In any case, the belief that local communities were weak or 
non-existent earlier is as ill-founded as the belief in their new legal capacity. 
On the other hand, it seems inherently probable that local privileges and the 
work involved in self-government induced a stronger sense of group identity, 
at least among elites. Their subjects, meanwhile, did not lose all opportunities 
for traditional collective activities or all their obligations to engage in them. 
Even if informal, multilateral, reciprocal activities between all inhabitants of 
a town were diminished as the population grew and professional judges and 

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administrators were appointed, bureaucracy did not supersede Buggins’s turn. 
Larger and more diverse populations meanwhile carried on in smaller groups 
some of the forms of collective activity that were no longer practicable for the 
town as a whole. 

Whether or not the greater formality and professionalism of law and gov- 
ernment were the enemies of communitarian feeling, they brought signifi- 
cant changes to collective government. Those who exercised power within the 
autonomous or semi-autonomous units of local government exercised more 
systematic power than they could have done earlier but, at the same time, 
most of them had to endure more systematic supervision by their subjects 
as new forms of administration began to be accompanied by new forms of 
consultation and decision-making. These would become more obvious in the 
thirteenth century but their origins are already clear by 1204. At the same time 
most local government was also subject to more supervision from outside than 
in 1024. While rulers had granted liberties or, as they were beginning to see 
it, had delegated more authority, many of them also had more effective cen- 
tral administrations. These too, however, in proportion to their effectiveness, 
were becoming subject to more formal criticism and control from those who 
counselled the ruler as representatives of the whole community. More literacy 
and more record-keeping gave conflicts more precise and consistent focus and 
enabled the values that linked government and community to be more clearly 
articulated. Fundamentally, these values, as distinct from the ways in which 
they were expressed, do not look very different in 1204 from those that are 
more obscurely implied in documents from two centuries before. The subjects 
of governments were still thought to form communities of descent and custom 
that were bound to their rulers by bonds of lawful and customary duty. Rulers 
were still the supreme representatives of the communities of which they formed 
part and which they had the duty to cherish and preserve. 

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Peter Landau 



in comparison with what preceded and followed it, the eleventh century can 
be seen as a time of rupture and crisis in European history. An influential recent 
study of European legal history by the American scholar Harold Berman sees 
the foundations of the ‘western legal tradition’ in a papally inspired ‘revolution’ 
between 1075 and 1122, namely the transformation of legal systems inspired by 
Pope Gregory VII (1073-85). This development has traditionally been known 
as the ‘Gregorian reform’, but the term does not do justice to its revolutionary 
character. Although Berman’s interpretation of eleventh-century legal history 
may be somewhat overstated, it is scarcely possible to deny that a new direction, 
‘un tournant dans l’histoire du droit’, 1 was taken in the closing decades of the 
eleventh century, marking a clear historical transition in the development of 
law. This new direction can be linked thematically to the great ideological 
struggle between pope and emperor, the Investiture Contest. Formally, it could 
be seen as a definitive espousal of written forms of law and a renunciation of 
previous approaches which depended extensively on the continual adaptation 
of oral traditions. That earlier legal culture is hard to relate to concepts based 
on modern forms of law. 

In order to account for the eleventh-century transformation, we must first 
glance back at the laws and legal systems of the early middle ages, although by 
our period these had already begun to give way to new forms of law. It is not 
at all easy to distil from the sources, which are mostly not legal documents as 
such, the exact nature of legal systems between the collapse of the Carolingian 
empire and c. 1050. It often seems as if, even in the tenth century, the law 
was not seen as an ensemble of rules and regulations, but could be perceived 

1 Berman (1983); Fournier (1917). 


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only through concrete decisions, although it was assumed to be permanent 
in itself. This can be illustrated, for example, from an event which took place 
in 938 in the East Frankish kingdom of Otto I, as reported by the chronicler 
Widukind of Corvey. A dispute arose among Otto’s vassals over the nature of an 
inheritance. Could the children of a son who had predeceased the testator share 
in the heritage along with his sons? In other words, did grandchildren have 
a right to inherit? They considered submitting the question to legal experts, 
but eventually had recourse to an ordeal in order to settle this abstract legal 
point. The ordeal demonstrated that grandchildren did have such a right, and 
at a formal hearing in the kings court it was agreed that this rule should 
be perpetuated. 2 Thus the question was decided without recourse either to 
traditional precepts of Germanic tribal law or to written Roman law, but 
through a conciliatory procedure. 

Although it can be assumed that law before the eleventh century consisted 
mainly of oral tradition, there is no doubt that, in some areas at least, written 
law also carried some weight - especially church (canon) law, which had come 
down from late antiquity in collections of canons which had a certain authority 
in the legal system and practice of the early medieval church. Some elements 
of Roman law had also been subsumed in clerical practice, sometimes in the 
form of a Lex romana canonice compta (the title of a ninth-century collection 
of legal texts from northern Italy). If this focusing of legal culture on written 
norms is seen as a positive development, the early medieval church already had 
a start over the secular world in its grasp of legal rationality. This makes sense, 
in view of the fact that the church had never quite abandoned the idea that 
corporations could have ‘rights’ - whereas outside the church, many ‘rights’ 
persisted only within families. 

The whole territory of law seems to have been more limited in early medieval 
society than it was to become later. There were, of course, legal customs associ- 
ated with treaties and agreements; there were legal consequences and sanctions, 
but there were also many ways of resolving conflicts which had nothing to do 
with ‘law’. It is debatable whether personal redress and feuds, which were un- 
deniably a reality in early medieval society, can be seen as legal institutions, 
or whether there were simply large areas of human activity which before the 
eleventh century were not subject to legal regulation at all. For example, early 
in the reign of Conrad II, in 1025, a dispute arose between the king and the 
people of Pavia. During the interregnum, the latter had destroyed the royal 
palace in their city: had this been an illegal act? According to Wipo, Conrad’s 
biographer, the king claimed that the Pavians had destroyed not an ownerless 

2 Widukind of Corvey, Rerum gestarum Saxonicarum libri tres (History of the Saxons) n. io; composed 

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The development of law 


piece of property, but a public building ( aedes publicae ). 3 This presumes an 
awareness of transpersonal legal continuity, which was evidently not shared by 
Conrads Pavian opponents. 

It was again Conrad II (1024-39) who in 1037, as the first king of Italy, 
issued a feudal decree on an occasion which Heinrich Mitteis has described 
as ‘the first case of feudal custom being defined by imperial legislation’. 4 This 
law of Conrad II is the first piece of legislation by a medieval Franco-German 
king. Shortly before, in 1025, Bishop Burchard of Worms had been one of the 
first to record in writing the household regulations of a community dependent 
on him, the Lex familiae Wormatiensis ecclesie : these regulations, he declared, 
were laws which would apply equally to both rich and poor. For the first time, 
such laws were to be recorded in writing. Why was such a record felt to be 

To answer that question, we might look first at economic developments. 
The eleventh century saw the beginnings of an economic transformation in 
Europe which recent researchers have dubbed the ‘commercial revolution’ of 
the middle ages. 5 As a result, the number of conflicts and disputes increased, 
and hence there was a greater perceived need for legal security, which could 
not be met by existing notions of law. 

The beginnings of the ‘commercial revolution’ go back to the latter half of 
the tenth century. The population of Europe was beginning to grow, and was 
to go on growing until the fourteenth century. This growth was accompanied 
by changes in agriculture. Improved equipment and the manorial system led 
to more intensive cultivation; and population growth promoted the enclosure 
of new agricultural land everywhere from Italy to Scandinavia and the Iberian 
Peninsula. This agricultural progress was a prerequisite for the ‘commercial 
revolution’. The growth in agricultural production stimulated consumption 
and the development of a luxury market; the production of surpluses encour- 
aged the growth of existing towns and the foundation of new ones - another 
eleventh-century phenomenon. There were relatively few large towns in Europe 
at that time, but they were already focuses for an increasing volume of trade, 
which would rapidly extend overseas with the diminishing danger of attack 
and invasion from the Islamic world, Hungary or the Vikings. 

The commercial revolution inevitably created a demand for a rational law of 
contract and a reliable credit system; and this could only happen on the basis 
of secure and generally accepted legal texts. In the fragmented Europe of the 
eleventh century, the only such corpus available was in texts expounding the 
Roman law of Justinian. The Digest was rediscovered just as their contents were 

3 Wipo, Gesta Cuonradi II imp eratoris (1040-6), c. 7. 

4 Mitteis (1975), p. 141. 5 Lopez (1971). 

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acquiring vastly more practical relevance than they had had when first written 
in the sixth century. 

The transformation and new development of law was impelled not only 
by economic, but also by religious factors. Jacob Burckhardt, in his Reflections 
on History, named religion, alongside state and culture, as one of the three 
potencies which condition gradual, or in times of crisis rapid, historical change. 
In the eleventh century, the monastic reforms which had been initiated in the 
tenth century, at Cluny in Burgundy and Gorze in Lorraine, began to spread 
all over Europe. It was in the eleventh century, in Italy, that the monastic 
orders of the Camaldolese and the Vallombrosans were founded; in 1059, i n 
Germany, Hirsau became a centre of reform under the influence of Gorze; 
religious houses in Catalonia were subordinated to the reformed monasteries 
of southern France. Monastic reform always included a return to the existing 
monastic rules, which were based on the Benedictine Rule and imposed on 
monastic communities in the form of Consuetudines. These monasteries, which 
in the eleventh century became foci of religious renewal and also undisputed 
centres of higher culture and learning, and in which the rights and duties of the 
community were enshrined in fixed, written Regulae, were potential models 
for the subjection of other communities to the rule of written law. 

In addition to monastic reform there was also general church reform, and 
especially the ‘reform in Rome’. 6 Modern research distinguishes between the 
Cluniac, and other monastic, reforms and general church reform, which is 
usually traced back to the intervention of the emperor Henry III at Sutri in 
1046. From the reign of the Lotharingian pope Leo IX (1049-54), the general 
church reform of the eleventh century was spearheaded by the papacy and the 
Roman curia, which Leo revived: the rise of the papacy was the prerequisite 
for the profound changes in canon law which were to take place in the twelfth 
century. Two key elements should be stressed here. First, the bishop of Rome 
made good his claim to be the leader of all Christendom. This claim was 
ultimately based on Christ’s words to Peter; Tu es Petrus . . . , in the Gospel of 
St Matthew (Matthew 16:18), but the pope’s legal position vis-a-vis the church 
really rested on the decretals formulated by Innocent I and Leo I, and later 
(in the ninth century) on the False or Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals. Hence the 
struggle for the libertas of the Roman-led church inevitably implied an increased 
interest in the canonical tradition, and therefore in law generally. This emerged 
particularly clearly in the writings of the reformer Peter Damian in the middle 
of the eleventh century. Secondly, since the collapse of the Carolingian empire, 
medieval Europe had possessed (and was to possess) only the most rudimentary 
political unity: therefore the law of the church could be unified only by an 

6 Blumenthal ( 1988 ). 

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The development of law 


ecclesiastical authority who enjoyed general acceptance. By 1200 the pope - in 
the person of Innocent III - had attained such prestige as a lawgiver that he was 
compared to King Solomon; but the first to aspire to such pre-eminence were 
the popes from Leo IX to Urban II (1088—99): by the beginning of the First 
Crusade, the latter was the more or less undisputed leader of Christendom. 
Canon law was the institutional foundation of the medieval papacy; but it also, 
and increasingly, became itself the product of that same, unique institution. 

Alongside the economic and religious (or ecclesiastical) factors, the trans- 
formation of the law was also, in the twelfth century, influenced by a third, 
political factor: the (abundantly attested) loss of legitimacy by traditional po- 
litical authorities. The result was, first, a plethora of political and ideological 
disputes (denoted by the blanket term ‘Investiture Contest’); and secondly, a 
conscious striving by secular powers to ground their authority in fixed, written 
law. Since Carolingian times, the western European political model had been 
a unified secular and ecclesiastical culture, and its ideal monarch had been the 
biblical King David, who could illustrate the concepts of kingship and im- 
perium. In the eleventh century, this unity split into a double hierarchy of 
secular and spiritual power which eventually produced the dichotomy between 
church and state that lingers in Europe to this day. The change was due, at least 
in part, to a change of outlook which did not relate exclusively to religion. A 
new, intellectually critical mentality had entered European history, and as time 
went on it was to steer this part of the world into a unique series of renewals 
and upheavals. 

Clear evidence of this transformation is supplied by the disputes which af- 
fected Milan between 1035 an d 10 7 5 > starting with the ‘revolt of the valvassors’ 
against the ruling archbishop in 1035 an d ending with the religious folk move- 
ment of the Tataria after 1050. At the beginning of the twelfth century Milan 
was already a self-governing commune ruled by a consulate. Other northern 
Italian cities saw a similar development: Pisa, too, had a consular constitution. 
The same was happening in some places outside Italy. In 1077 there was a con- 
spiracy to form a commune in Cambrai; in 1073, at the height of the conflict 
with Henry IV, the citizens of Worms rose against their bishop; in 1074 the 
people of Cologne revolted against certain decrees by Archbishop Anno, who 
was temporarily driven out of the city. At the beginning of the twelfth century 
there was a conspiracy in Cologne which was described in the Royal Chronicle 
of Cologne (1112 or 1114) as a coniuratio pro libertate, a conspiracy for freedom. 
The political development of independent communes, which affected most 
parts of Europe from the twelfth century onwards, created a fresh demand for 
legislation, legal forms and legal concepts. 

Yet another factor encouraging legal debate must have been the political 
propaganda which appeared during the Investiture Contest. This propaganda 

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naturally drew on the Bible, but it also and increasingly used legal arguments, 
which were advanced - to different ends - by the partisans of Pope Gregory VII 
and the emperor Henry IV and escalated into a veritable war of quotations. 
However, a detailed description of this propaganda belongs to the political 
history of the Investiture Contest. 


To speak of a rebirth of legal study in this period is to assume agreement with 
the dominant view of recent research and to dispute the earlier concept, widely 
held in the nineteenth century, of a continuity in such study from the rhetorical 
schools of antiquity right up to the eleventh century. Certainly texts of Roman 
and canon law continued to be copied throughout the early middle ages, and 
were also gathered into new systematic compilations. Thus, at the end of the 
ninth century, a collection of canons made in the Milan area, the Collectio 
Anselmo dedicates brought together numerous texts of Roman law which later 
also found their way into the pre-1025 Decretum of Bishop Burchard of Worms, 
the most widely known and influential compilation of ecclesiastical law prior to 
1100. However, it was not yet customary for the content of such compilations to 
be expounded in particular law schools: the history of Roman and canon law in 
the early middle ages is largely confined to the history of compilations without 
academic interpretation, unless the selection and ordering of texts is itself to be 
described as such. We do also find, prior to the eleventh century, some glosses 
and a few summaries of such sources of Roman law as were still known: in Italy, 
the Codex Justinianus, the Epitome Juliani and Justinian’s Institutes. However, 
the vast majority of these comments bear only on isolated words and do not 
attempt to give a juristic commentary on the inherited texts. 

True legal study, meaning a learned exposition of the texts and the system- 
atic teaching of law, began in Italy in the eleventh century. Before the twelfth 
century, when Bologna rose to European importance as a school of Roman 
law, law was already being taught by academic specialists in Pavia, and possibly 
in Ravenna. At that time, the old imperial palace in Ravenna was one of Italy’s 
chief urban centres; according to a tradition mentioned by the Bolognese jurist 
Odofredus, there was a law school there even before there was any formal teach- 
ing. Not only Odofredus, who may merely have been repeating a more recent 
legend, but also Peter Damian, a contemporary, mentions in his canonical 
treatise on degrees of kinship ( De parentelae gradibus) that Ravenna had sternly 
disciplined schools in which knowledge of the law was imparted. However, 
Damian is probably alluding to the teaching of rhetoric within the framework 
of the artes liberates, which included some elementary legal knowledge. 

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The development of law 


Much less ambiguous than for Ravenna is the tradition that there was a 
school of Lombard law in Pavia, the old capital of the Lombard kingdom, 
in the second half of the eleventh century. By the beginning of that century 
there already existed in Pavia a comprehensive compilation of the laws of the 
Lombard and Frankish kings of Italy: it is known to scholars as the Liber 
Papiensis. At the end of the century, the same material found its way into the 
systematised Lex Lombarda, the product of an active school of Lombard law 
which had arisen in Pavia in the interim. Even before the Lombarda appeared, 
the jurists of Pavia were already expounding Lombard law; their views and 
debates were summarised in the Expositio adLibrum Papiensem, which appeared 
shortly before 1070, probably the first juristic commentary in the history of 
medieval legal study. The Expositio mentions seven Pavian judges, respected 
legal authorities, all of whom lived between 1000 and 1070. These jurists also 
quoted Justinian’s Institutes and used Roman law when expounding Lombard 
texts. In the twelfth century, the Pavia school continued to write commentaries 
on the Lex Lombarda. The scanty available sources cannot be taken to prove 
that this Pavian juristic tradition was the model for the school of Roman-law 
glossators at Bologna in the years after 1100; nevertheless it is likely that Pavia 
was the earliest centre for law teaching in medieval Europe. 

In pre-eleventh-century western Europe outside Italy, the main source of 
ancient Roman law was the Breviarium Alaricianum, the great codification 
made by the Visigothic King Alaric in 506, which included substantial ex- 
tracts from the Codex Theodosianus, an earlier compilation of imperial decrees 
from late antiquity. In Italy there was still some knowledge of Justinian’s Corpus 
iuris civilis— the Institutes, a few books of the Codex Justinianus, and the Novellae 
in a sixth-century Latin translation known as the Epitome Jidiani — and these 
texts were glossed, though the glosses were mostly grammatical. But the Digest 
or Pandects of Justinian remained unknown until the last quarter of the eleventh 
century; their rediscovery gave the impulse for the establishment of Bologna’s 
law school. In late antiquity the last authorities to quote the Digest had been 
Pope Gregory I (603) and Pope Agatho (680); the next certain allusion to them 
after that is in a Tuscan court record of 1076. The sole manuscript of the Pan- 
dects which has come down from antiquity is the Codex Florentinus, now in 
the Biblioteca Laurenziana. Research has thrown some light on the adventures 
of this manuscript since it was written in Constantinople in the sixth century. 
It soon found its way into Byzantine southern Italy, and by about 1070 it was 
probably in Monte Cassino, where it was compared with another excerpt from 
the Digest, now no longer extant, which belonged to another tradition: the 
two were conflated to produce another text, which as the Littera vulgata found 
its way to Bologna and was there greeted as a fundamental textbook. In the 
first half of the twelfth century the Codex Florentinus, which differs from the 

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Vulgata text, came to Pisa, and thence to its present resting place in Florence 
in 1406. 

Thus, strikingly, it was by pure chance - the conservation of a single 
manuscript - that the academic study of law in Europe was triggered; nev- 
ertheless, the production of the Vulgata text, which diverges from Florentinus, 
shows that there were people about with sufficient intellectual training to un- 
derstand legal texts. The increasing number of Vulgata manuscripts after 1090 
indicates that there was already a lively interest in the text of the Digest. 

Medieval scholars divided the Digest into three volumes: the Digestum vetus, 
the Infortiatum and the Digestum novum. The Infortiatum was further subdi- 
vided, one section of it being known as the Tres partes. Many attempts have 
been made to account for the apparent arbitrariness of the divisions and the 
oddness of the titles. The subdivision of the Digest was due to the fact that 
originally, in Bologna, only the Digestum vetus was known, i.e. the first twenty- 
four of the total of fifty books. The Digestum novum and the Infortiatum were 
not widely known or glossed until later. Thus scholars absorbed the content of 
the Digest gradually, piece by piece, until they were familiar with the complete 
work - a process which took several decades. 

Similarly, the first medieval scholars knew only the first nine books of the 
Codex Justinianus. For this reason, the glossators included the last three books, 
the Tres libri, in the same volume as the Institutes and the Justinianian Novellae. 
Medieval jurists cited the Novellae from the Authenticum, another Latin trans- 
lation which was fuller than the Epitome Julian v, the original text, which was 
almost entirely in Greek, did not become generally known until the fifteenth- 
century humanists rediscovered it as part of the Corpus iuris civilis. 

‘canon law’ at the end of the eleventh century: 


Thus the end of the eleventh century, the time of the Gregorian reform, saw 
the rediscovery of the Digest and the first attempts to teach Roman law. But 
the rise of academic legal study in western Europe also took place in canon 
law: new collections of canons were compiled, and scholars developed an orig- 
inal methodological approach to written law. The reformers intended from 
the outset to gather together all the canonical texts which could help them 
reach a more accurate definition of the pope’s status. A famous witness to this 
intention is a letter written in 1059 by Peter Damian to the Roman archdea- 
con Hildebrand, later Pope Gregory VII. Hildebrand, says Damian, had asked 
him to make a new collection of all the statutes relating to the prerogatives of 
the papal see. Even if Damian did not himself fulfil this commission, people 
certainly were making such compilations by the beginning of Gregory VII’s 

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The development of law 


pontificate, and they all focus on the papacy as an institution. Most important 
is the Seventy-Four Titles, which strongly emphasises the primacy of the pope 
and draws almost exclusively on papal decretals (real and forged), paying scant 
attention to church councils. Most of the decretals are Pseudo-Isidorian, but 
the text is often tampered with, usually in order to strengthen the jurisdiction 
of the pope. This collection, which centres on church discipline and procedural 
law, presents the pope essentially as the church’s chief judge, whose protection 
extends to all clerics troubled by unjust complaints. 

It is not certain, however, that this collection issued from Gregory VIIs 
immediate circle, though it must have been in existence in the early years of 
his pontificate, when it was used by the Gregorian propagandist Bernold of 
Constance. We do not know where it was written; it could be from northern 
France, where canonists were also active at the time. 

A rather thin canonical compilation is the Dictatus papae, a short account 
of twenty-seven formal pronouncements on the position of the pope which 
Gregory VII included in 1076 as an exceptional entry in the register of his 
correspondence. The whole work reads like a treatise on ecclesiastical policy; 
its principles sometimes contradict the canonical tradition. Despite some in- 
tensive research, the immediate purpose of this document is still unknown; 
but it is certainly a very concise formulation of the pope’s own legal outlook. 
Although the pronouncements in the Dictatus papae were seldom adopted 
word-for-word into contemporary canonical works, its principles became an 
integral part of ecclesiastical law over the next 150 years. In fact, the Gregorian 
approach enjoyed lasting success. 

From 1075 onwards, Gregory VU’s circle produced a series of new canonical 
compilations, which were widely known in Italy even in the eleventh cen- 
tury, and were felt to be specifically Roman legal compilations. The earliest is 
the little Breviarium of Cardinal Atto of San Marco; it was followed by the 
compilations of Bishop Anselm of Lucca ( c . 1085) and of Cardinal Deusdedit 
( c . 1087), and finally by the Liber de vita Christiana of Bishop Bonizo of Sutri. 
Of these the work of Anselm of Lucca, a close associate of Gregory VII, was 
by far the most successful; it was the only one of these compilations which 
was extensively drawn upon by Gratian. Anselm’s view of ecclesiastical law is 
a strongly centralising one, and his first book is devoted to the power and 
supremacy of the pope. He devotes a good deal of space to procedural law: 
Anselm, following Gregory himself, asserts that the church must be purged 
of lay influence. The compilation is, in fact, a very faithful mirror of Grego- 
rian thinking. Through Anselm, numerous pronouncements by the Church 
Fathers, especially Augustine, found their way into canonical texts - in par- 
ticular, pronouncements on the just war, which now came for the first time 
within the purview of canon law. 

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The rival compilation of Cardinal Deusdedit was the first work of its kind 
to be dedicated to a pope: in fact, to Victor III, Gregory VII’s successor. This 
compilation also puts first the rights of the Roman church, but the work is less 
well organised than Anselm’s. Deusdedit is the first compiler to cite Justinian’s 
Novellae from the Authenticum, a precocious sign of the influence which the 
rediscovery of hitherto unknown Roman law texts was to have on canon law. 
Some items in Deusdedit’s collection are from the papal archive, showing that 
at this early date such archives were already being combed for canonically 
valuable material. 

The last author in this group of ‘convinced Gregorians’ 7 is Bonizo of Sutri. 
The very title of his work, Liber de vita Christiana, bespeaks a hybrid of theo- 
logical and canonical interests: the theological emphasis is plain from the fact 
that the first book is devoted to baptism, and the next to confession. The com- 
piler does not simply gather texts, but also provides dicta or pronouncements 
which show a germ of academic interpretation. Bonizo is already attempting 
to reconcile contradictions in the texts he has gathered: his approach is not 
dissimilar to that of the glossators. However, the influence of his work on later 
canon law was slight. 

Before the end of the eleventh century France had already produced three ex- 
tensive canonical compilations which soon became known throughout Europe, 
so that their influence far surpassed that of the Gregorian Italian compilations 
previously mentioned. All three are linked with the name of Bishop Ivo of 
Chartres, in whose circle they were compiled around 1095. They are known 
to scholars as the Collectio tripartita, the Decretum of Ivo and the Panormia, 
but only the third title is authentic. While the Tripartita is organised partly on 
a chronological basis, the Decretum is an enormous, systematic compendium 
of texts, and the Panormia a concise, easy-to-use handbook of canon law. Not 
only are Ivo’s compilations more extensive than any others made at the time, 
they are also much more wide ranging thematically. The ecclesiastical law of 
marriage (which had been substantially overhauled in the eleventh century, in 
particular with respect to the prohibited degrees and the jurisdiction of the 
church courts) is central to Ivo’s compilations. Ivo wholeheartedly espoused 
the principle of consent as the essential element in marriage; in the twelfth cen- 
tury this was generally accepted by the church, with far-reaching consequences 
for the marriage of serfs and the notion that women should be equal partners 
in marriage. Ivo also considers the sacramental nature of marriage. As regards 
procedural law, his attitude towards the ordeal ( judicium Dei) betrays an in- 
cipient rationalisation, doubtless under the influence of early scholasticism. 
His approach to the Investiture Contest was moderate: unlike the committed 

7 Fuhrmann (1972—4), 11, p. 534. 

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I2 3 

The development of law 

Gregorians, he did not consider papal primacy over the church to be of central 

Ivo’s prologue to one of his canonical compilations is of great historical 
importance; it often appears separately from the compilations themselves and is 
the first comprehensive academic study of canon law. Ivo distinguishes between 
unalterable, basic principles and a great variety of modifiable laws for which 
he uses the term dispensatio. Ecclesiastical law, he maintains, should not be 
dispensed according to principles of strict and rigid justice, but should always 
incline towards misericordia. This new teleological outlook on Ivo’s part laid 
the foundations for an independent canon law which was soon to develop its 
own academic tradition. 

Almost 300 letters by Ivo have survived, in which he often discusses legal 
matters as a recognised expert on canon law. These letters are invaluable 
evidence for legal practice around the turn of the twelfth century. 

Of Ivo’s works, it was the handy Panormia which quickly became known 
all over Europe. Both it and the Collectio tripartita were extensively drawn on 
by Gratian. By the beginning of the twelfth century Ivo’s compilations had 
already reached Poland and probably Scandinavia, the first works of canon 
law to do so. He also surpassed his predecessors in his knowledge of Roman 
law, for he used an excerpt of the Pandects. His work, along with the earli- 
est output of the Bologna School, marks a turning point in European legal 



The teaching of law at Bologna developed out of the teaching of rhetoric as part 
of the trivium, and in parallel with the gradual rediscovery and exploitation of 
the Corpus iuris civilis, particularly the Digest. The recognised founder of legal 
teaching, and of the Bolognese School of glossators, is the jurist Irnerius, who 
was the first to interpret texts of Roman law on the basis of the complete Corpus 
iuris civilis. There are many documentary references to Irnerius between 1112 
and 1125; his legal expertise brought him into close contact with the protagonists 
of the Investiture Contest. He was at first an adherent of Countess Matilda of 
Tuscany and appeared in her courts. After the emperor Henry V received the 
countess’ inheritance in 1116, Irnerius often sat as judge in his royal court, and 
in 1118 he supported the emperor at the election of the antipope Gregory VIII. 
As a result, Irnerius was excommunicated by Pope Calixtus II at the council 
of Rheims in 1119. He is last mentioned in connection with an arbitration 
in 1125. 

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Granted that Irnerius must already have been a recognised teacher of law by 
about mo, his teaching career could have begun as far back as the last decade 
of the eleventh century. Before Irnerius, the name of one Pepo has come down 
to us as one of the teachers and judges in the Bologna circle; we are not sure 
what exactly he taught, or when. He features in court records from the 1070s 
onwards, and may have acquired some knowledge of the Digest well before 
Irnerius did. These scant details of Pepo’s career do at least allow us to date the 
earliest beginnings of the Bologna Law School back to about 1080. Whereas 
no work attributable to Pepo has survived, we do have a large number of 
Irnerius’ glosses on the Corpus iuris civilis, both interlinear and marginal. They 
may already have been intended as a glossatory ‘apparatus’, i.e. a continuous 
commentary. In the nineteenth century scholars attributed other, anonymous 
twelfth-century works to Irnerius, but recent research has shown that these 
claims are unsubstantiated. 

Irnerius’ chief claim to fame is that he founded a school of glossators in 
Bologna, which in the next generation was linked with the names of the 
Quattuor Doctores : Bulgarus, Martinus Gosia, Jacobus de Porta Ravennate and 
Hugo de Porta Ravennate. The Quattuor Doctores appeared on the political 
scene in 1158, in the entourage of Frederick I, when they gave their support 
to the emperor in the dispute over regal rights in Lombardy. Bulgarus and 
Martinus, if not the others, may have studied under Irnerius himself. 

Bulgarus and Martinus had contrasting approaches to glossing, and both 
their methods remained in vogue until the Glossa ordinaria was written in the 
middle of the thirteenth century. Bulgarus took the text at its face value and 
favoured the ius strictum, whereas Martinus frequently applied the principle of 
aequitas and so inclined towards a freer interpretation of the sources. Bulgarus’ 
school - nostri doctores — continued to hold sway at Bologna, while the followers 
of Martinus, who became known as the ‘Gosiani’, were to be found chiefly 
outside of Bologna, particularly in southern France, where they influenced the 
study of Roman law. 

The writings of the Quattuor Doctores were mostly glosses and commentaries. 
The comments of their generation on the Digest and the Codex Justinianus 
formed the basis of Accursius’ Glossa ordinaria on the entire Corpus iuris civilis 
in the thirteenth century: Accursius was able to build on almost a hundred years 
of creative interpretation of Roman law. The same generation also initiated the 
writing of monographs on particular problems in Roman law: commentaries 
on procedural law, for example, became a separate genre known as the Ordines 
iudiciorum (for Roman law) or Ordines iudiciarii (for canon law). The earliest 
work in this genre is an exposition of procedural law, in the form of a long 
and detailed letter written by Bulgarus to Haimeric, chancellor of the Roman 
church between 1123 and 1141. In this letter Bulgarus also deals with a section 

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The development of law 

I2 5 

of the Digest, De regulis iuris, to which he devotes a special commentary 
0 Commentum ) on how to classify general legal principles; it became the model 
for another separate genre. 

This generation of Bolognese academics also initiated the compilation both 
of Quaestiones (pedagogic discussions of legal problems without direct connec- 
tion to special texts of law) and Distinctiones, which systematically analyse legal 
concepts. A substantial example of this genre may be attributable to Hugo de 
Porta Ravennate. 

In conclusion, it was the Four Doctors and their contemporaries who es- 
tablished the genres in which the glossators were mainly to work; and their 
method of probing contrasting academic opinions initiated a culture of juristic 
debate that was to become an integral part of medieval learning. 

Southern French jurists were also active at this time (the first half of the 
twelfth century), producing a series of anonymous works on Roman law; 
recently there have been attempts to assign them to particular places, and 
if possible particular authors. s The first surviving work of this school is a 
Summa on the Institutes which begins ‘Justiniani es t in hoc opere’ and was 
compiled at Die, in the Rhone valley, in about 1127. Even this very early work 
shows the influence of Martinus, indicating that Bolognese jurisprudence had 
quickly become widely known. Soon after this Summa a series of practical 
handbooks appeared containing excerpts from salient texts of Roman law. A 
particularly notable example is the Exceptiones Petri, which is divided into 
four books and was already being used in about 1150 in Catalonia, where 
Roman law was being incorporated into Catalan customary law. However, the 
outstanding achievements of this southern French school were their Summae 
on the Code of Justinian, which predate any such work produced at Bologna. 
These Summae gave a systematised overview of Roman law, obviating the 
need for direct consultation of the dauntingly complex Codex iuris civilis-, 
they also provided an accessible introduction to Roman law itself. The first 
Summa on the Codex is the Summa Trecensis, so called because the manuscript 
is in Troyes; recently, Gouron has identified the author as a French jurist 
named Geraud. The Summa Trecensis underlies a Summa in Provenfal known 
as Lo Codi, which was the first attempt to translate Roman law terminology 
into a vernacular tongue. It was compiled in about 1160 in the Rhone valley 
and became widely known, especially when the text was translated into Latin 
and so could be used outside the Provenfal-speaking area in Italy. Lo Codi 
was also translated into French, Castilian and Catalan and so became widely 
known in France and Spain. Indeed, the influence of this unique work of 
Provenfal legal theory spread even outside Europe, for in about 1162 it was 

8 Gouron (1984; 1987; 1993). 

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incorporated into the law of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, in the redaction known 
as the Assizes of Jerusalem. Lo Codi both marks the apogee of the independent 
Provenfal school and initiates its decline. After 1160 southern France came 
under the influence of such famous Bolognese masters as Rogerius, and later 
Placentinus, who worked at Montpellier. Both also wrote Summae on the 


Irnerius turned Bologna into the centre of Roman law studies, and so it 
remained throughout the twelfth century. Other places attained occasional 
prominence, especially in southern France - Valence, in the Rhone valley, and 
Montpellier - but none had the continuity of Bologna, which may justly claim 
to have been teaching and studying the law for longer than any other European 

Indeed, the beginnings of Bologna as a ‘university can be traced to the first 
half of the twelfth century, when the law was taught privately by individual 
experts - Irnerius and a succession of teachers after him. However, its statutes 
go no further back than 1253. Almost everything we know about the earlier 
period comes from just two sources. The first is the famous Anthentica Habita, 
a privilege granted by Frederick Barbarossa in 1155. It is an imperial decree, 
granting the teachers of law at Bologna jurisdiction over all would-be students 
en route to that city. Wherever they stayed on the way, they were not to be 
punished on account of unpaid debts or crimes committed by their fellow 
countrymen. The emperor also granted them a privileged legal status: when in 
Bologna they were not subject to the town courts, but could choose between 
the bishops court and the discipline of their teachers. The privilege assumes 
that the teachers ( domini or magistri) are already a group with a distinct status. 
The fact that the privilege is confined to foreign students indicates that a 
large number of such scholars already existed. Later on, students who were 
not from Bologna were divided into two separate corporations ( universitates ): 
the Citramonti from inside Italy and the non-Italian Ultramontani. It is hard 
to say when this division first began, but it may have been in existence by 
the middle of the twelfth century, when it was assumed that the universitates , 
as institutions, could guarantee the safety of foreign students, whereas local 
students automatically enjoyed the protection accorded to resident citizens. 

Barbarossa’s privilege was followed by another granted to students by Pope 
Lucius III in 1184, which is preserved in a decretal. It forbids landlords from 
turning lecturers and students out of their rooms if someone else offers a higher 
rent: offenders are threatened with excommunication. This shows that even 

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The development of law 127 

elementary aspects of student life were already being regulated by ecclesiastical 

The university of Bologna was to a large extent controlled by its students: 
by the end of the twelfth century the universitates were already being ruled 
by elected student rectors. The rectors had to have completed a five-year law 
course and to have reached the age of twenty-five. They claimed jurisdiction 
over the students, alongside the jurisdiction granted to the bishop and the 
professors by the Authentica Habita. 

The student communities were tightly knit bodies and were quite capable 
of organising a mass migration by the students if there was trouble with the 
city authorities. Even before 1200, individual lecturers had occasionally aban- 
doned Bologna temporarily and migrated to other places; at the beginning 
of the thirteenth century there were some mass secessions by both students 
and teachers. There was a law school in Vicenza for a few years after 1204, 
but only in 1222 did a lasting rival to Bologna emerge, when a large teacher- 
student group migrated from Bologna and founded the university of Padua. 
Like Bologna itself, these new, competing foundations started life as private 
schools, unsupported by any privileges from pope or emperor. Although the 
fact that the student corporations were not subject to the city’s jurisdiction 
inevitably led to town-and-gown conflicts, Bologna always strove to prevent 
academic migrations. A statute of 1215 threatens scholars with expulsion and 
confiscation of their assets if they try to incite other students to leave the city: 
this regulation was plainly directed against the student rectors. But town- 
gown conflict over the recognition of the student rectors finally provoked a 
series of interventions by Pope Honorius III, during a migration which lasted 
from 1217 to 1220. Honorius fully supported the students’ right to elect their 
own rectors, and forced the city to accept this. The migrations seemed effec- 
tively to have dissolved the Bologna Studium: evidently the boycott was highly 
effective, for it compelled the city authorities to give in. In 1219, Honorius 
III further decreed that the archdeacon of Bologna cathedral should supervise 
the granting of degrees, thus institutionalising ecclesiastical supervision over 
the law school. The intervention of popes in Bolognese student affairs was 
evidently welcomed by the student corporations, because it guaranteed them 
a measure of freedom from municipal control. 

The Bologna Studium developed into a centre for advanced education con- 
trolled by its students; this form of organisation distinguished it sharply from 
the University of Paris, which had developed out of the theological Studium 
there. Bologna’s recognition of the autonomous student institutions was eased 
by the fact that most law students were of noble birth and were older than the 
students of arts or theology. 

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One of the most significant turning points in twelfth-century history was the 
establishment and development of a science of canon law, out of which a 
broadly consistent legal system developed which was applicable throughout 
western Europe. This development is closely bound up with that great work, 
the Decretum Gratiani, which synthesised the existing canonical compilations 
and, by methodically contrasting and reconciling contradictory canons, created 
a viable work of reference for the church courts. As soon as it appeared, this 
comprehensive, intellectually ambitious work became the standard textbook 
on canon law, which could now take its place alongside the study of Roman law. 

The Decretum Gratiani first appeared in Bologna around 1140. Its compiler 
was supposedly a monk called Gratianus, of whose life nothing certain is 
known. However, the content and orientation of the work indicate that he 
did live in a monastic milieu and was himself a teacher of ecclesiastical law: 
indeed, his pupils were the first true scholars of canon law. Since the first such 
canonists were almost all active in Bologna, it is logical to conclude that Gratian 
also worked there. His work survives in many twelfth-century manuscripts, 
and between 1140 and 1160 it became known all over Europe. The Decretum 
Gratiani has a different construction from earlier canonical compilations: the 
canons themselves are explained and validated by Gratian’s own commentaries 
( dicta Gratiani), which are sometimes very extensive. This makes it more of 
a textbook than a mere collection of texts. Gratian applies the interpretative 
ground rules laid down by Ivo of Chartres in his Prologue, and like Ivo, Gratian 
attempts a synthesis of theological and legal thinking. This approach was to 
have a decisive effect on future developments, when canon law became a branch 
of jurisprudence, but with a theological basis. Gratian’s theological teaching 
(e.g. his concept of marriage) was influenced by early scholastic theology (the 
Laon school) . 

Gratian’s enormous work has almost 4000 chapters. They include the canons 
of the primitive and early medieval church councils and decretals by the popes 
up to Paschal II (with a particularly large selection by Leo I, Gelasius I and 
especially Gregory I), together with almost 1000 excerpts from the Church 
Fathers. Since the onset of the Investiture Contest a growing number of com- 
pilers had drawn heavily on patristic texts, particularly the works of Augustine, 
but Gratian went further in this direction than any other. Hence the teachings 
of the Church Fathers had a decisive influence on such legal matters as oaths 
and the just war, which means that Gratian’s work lies behind some important 
elements of international law. 

At first, Gratian seems to have been cautious about including Roman law 
in his work: we now distinguish at least two redactions of the Decretum and 
recent research has shown that the numerous quotations from Justinian were 

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The development of law 


not included until a late redaction. However, one of Gratian’s sources for ‘nat- 
ural law’ was the Etymologies of Isidore of Seville, and Isidore quotes extensively 
from Roman law: Gratian borrowed many of these quotations and incorpo- 
rated them into his introduction, in which he sets out his approach to law. 
This borrowing proved fertile, for the Decretum became the main source of 
medieval scholastic teaching on natural law, and was used by later authors up 
to and including Thomas Aquinas. 

Gratian used only a few of the earlier canonical compilations in his work, but 
when he did so he generally incorporated the canons without alteration. Recent 
research has shown that his main sources were Ivo’s weighty compilations; he 
also used Gregorian collections such as that of Anselm of Lucca. This doubtless 
puts him substantially in line with Gregorian legal thought, e.g. when he 
stresses that the pope is entitled to modify canon law as he sees fit (he has 
the ius condendi canones). The pope’s jurisdiction is strongly emphasised and 
lay influence on the church is decisively reduced, especially as regards church 
property: the institution of proprietary churches, so characteristic of the early 
middle ages, disappears. 

Gratian’s choice and disposition of his material effectively decided which 
areas were thenceforward to come within the purview of canon law. Like Ivo, he 
devotes a great deal of attention to marriage: as a result, marriage, in particular 
the definition of marriage and divorce, remained an undisputed part of canon 
law for centuries thereafter. The church law of property is also prominent, 
and some new rules on prescriptions and tithes are developed. Numerous 
new procedural rules are also introduced. Concerning sacraments, the chief 
emphasis is on ordination and the combating of simony. It is important to 
note that Gratian insists on the unity of ecclesiastical law: the regional law of 
provincial councils is to be accounted secondary. Gratian develops a model for 
a centralised church governed by its clergy. 


The first redaction of the Decretum Gratiani was more or less complete by 
1140. Over the next decades there rapidly developed an academic tradition of 
Decretum interpretation whose representatives are known as the Decretists. 
The first of them, surely a student of Gratian himself, is the Bolognese lecturer 
Paucapalea, who may well have worked on the Decretum itself and wrote the 
first textbook ( Summa ) on it. As with the literature on Roman law, the first 
writings on Gratian’s text were mostly glosses, which were soon being put to- 
gether in manuscripts as complete commentaries attributed to various authors. 

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Subsequently, the glosses developed into ‘apparatuses’: one of the first compre- 
hensive commentaries of this kind was written at Bologna in about 1180. 

Not only glosses, but also Summae were very important to the study of 
canon law: they were compiled in Bologna and, from the 1160s onwards, in 
canon-law schools outside Italy. Not all the compilers are known by name: 
some important anonymous textbooks are therefore denoted only by their 
incipits or the provenance of the manuscript. The first outburst of Summa 
production in Bologna culminated in the works of the canonist Rufinus, later 
bishop of Assisi (c. 1164). Rufinus has a strong theological bias, and some of 
his work has a dogmatic approach to law which is largely his own creation. 
Thus the scanty remnants of proprietary churches, which we find in Gratian, 
were turned by Rufinus into the legal institution of patronage. He also drew 
up a list of prohibited degrees of marriage which became standard in cannon 
law. The ecclesiastical law on marriage was to be systematically constructed by 
the Decretists and further developed through the decretals of Pope Alexander 

Soon after Rufinus’ work came the well-known Summa of Stephen of Tour- 
nai ( c . 1166). Stephen was a French canonist, educated at Bologna, who wrote 
his textbook after his return to France, where he became a regular canon at 
Orleans. His work decisively influenced the writing of independent canon-law 
texts in France, but the Bolognese canonists were also quick to assimilate it, 
in particular Johannes Faventius, who refers to it in his Summa on Gratian’s 
Decretum. Stephen’s ecclesiastical career was notable: he became abbot of St 
Genevieve in Paris, and later (1192-1203) bishop of Tournai. His numerous 
surviving letters are valuable evidence for the practice of ecclesiastical law in 
the second half of the twelfth century. His Summa is far more strongly influ- 
enced by Roman law than is Rufinus’: it is a precursor of the ius commune, 
which combined elements of Roman and canon law. Stephen, unlike Rufinus, 
did not insist on the pope’s primacy over the emperor (a central question at 
this, the time of Barbarossa), but inclined towards a dualistic position which 
was imitated by many later canonists. From the debate over this point emerged 
a theory of the relationship between church and state which has perpetuated 
the influence of canon law up to the present day. Canon law, midway between 
jurisprudence and theology, was not grounded on a vision of an almighty 
church, nor did it always insist that theology should take precedence over 

After Stephen’s, many other Summae on Gratian appeared before 1200: 
some were written in Bologna, but others are of French, German or English 
provenance (though in the latter case we should rather say ‘Angevin’, England 
being only part of the Angevin domain). The most important, and effectively 
the final, Bolognese Summa was that of the Decretist Huguccio (completed 

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The development of law 


c. 1188). He tookfull account ofthe new law which, since the time ofAlexander 
III, had been constructed on the basis of papal decretals, producing a virtually 
encyclopaedic and also very original work. Huguccio later became a close 
associate of Innocent III, and may have instructed the latter in the law before 
he attained the papal throne. 

From 1170 onwards, numerous Summae on the Decretum were produced in 
France, probably in its academic centre, Paris. These works were also known 
outside France: for example, a textbook of French provenance is known to have 
been in use in Carinthia. A very original Summa, organised on different lines 
from the Decretum, was written in Cologne in 1169 (the Summa Coloniensis ): it 
is the outstanding product of a short-lived Rhineland school of Decretists who 
had contacts with England. English canonists produced a number of Summae 
from 1180 onwards; among them we may note that of Magister Honorius, 
active as a teacher of law between 1185 and 1195. Later, his chequered career 
in the service of the archbishop of York included a term of imprisonment for 
unpaid legal costs. 9 

Though few Summae on the Decretum appeared after 1200, collections of 
glosses, put together to constitute comprehensive commentaries, found re- 
newed favour at Bologna and Paris. Their authors were mostly foreigners lec- 
turing in Bologna, and became leading canonists under Innocent III: Alanus 
Anglicus; Laurentius Hispanus, later bishop of Orense in Spain, teacher of 
the future Pope Innocent IV; and Johannes Teutonicus, who wrote the Glossa 
ordinaria on Gratian’s Decretum some time before 1216. This work did for the 
work of the Decretists what Accursius’ Glossa ordinaria had done for Roman 
law: it provided a succinct overview whose influence lasted for many centuries 
as the standard commentary on Gratian. 

The twelfth century saw the development of other kinds of canonical lit- 
erature as well as glosses and Summae. First come the Quaestiones, collections 
of imaginary cases intended for student practice, which were often compiled 
by students from the lectures of a particular teacher. Such Quaestiones go back 
to the 1150s in Bologna and are evidence of the rapid development of canon- 
law teaching after 1140. In the last decades of the twelfth century Quaestiones 
were also compiled outside Bologna, in southern France and in England; they 
are often modelled on genuine cases, so that they give us some insight into 
contemporary legal practice. 

Legal concepts were analysed in Distinctiones, which were compiled mainly 
in French and Anglo-Norman schools from 1170 onwards. The most important 
work in this genre is the ‘Distinctions’ of the Bolognese lecturer Ricardus 
Anglicus (c. 1195). After his return to England he became prior of Dunstable, 

9 Weigand (1980). 

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where he remained until 1242; during these years he often acted as a judge on 
behalf of the pope. The figure of this versatile English canonist is a particularly 
forcible demonstration of the close links between academic legal theory and 
legal practice during this period. 

The building of general legal principles was fostered by the ‘Brocarda’ com- 
pilations, which from 1180 became a special sub-genre of canon-law theory. 
Another very influential work of this nature was the ‘Generalia’ of Ricardus 
Anglicus (c. 1195), which took into account the new law of the decretals and 
so can be included amongst the output of the Decretists. 

Summing up, the second half of the twelfth century saw canon law become 
an academic subject of European importance. The varied genres of canon-law 
writing show that the law of the church had reached a high level of intellectual 
development; the synthesis of legal and theological approaches sharply distin- 
guished the study of canon law from the contemporary academic approach to 
Roman law. 


It is not only as the ‘father of the science of canon law’ that Gratian is important. 
The popes based themselves on the Decretum when they issued their own laws 
or ‘decretals’, and their output was enormous. Because Gratian, following Gre- 
gory VII, expressly acknowledged that the pope had the ius condendi canones, 
it was logical that devotees of the Decretum should appeal to papal authority 
to decide difficult cases and clarify questions of law which Gratian had not 
resolved. In fact, decretals - authoritative legal decisions by popes - are known 
from as far back as the late fourth century; by late antiquity the western church 
was according them equal status with conciliar canons. But until the middle of 
the twelfth century we cannot point to any consistent exploitation of decretals 
as ‘case law’. Until 1150/ 60 it was rare for a pope to issue an expert opinion on a 
question of law; but during the pontificate of Alexander III (1159-81) there was 
an explosive increase: more than 700 decretals survive from Alexander alone. 
We cannot identify him with the Bolognese canonist Rolandus, but his 
traditional title of ‘Lawyer Pope’ is deserved in a wider sense, because 
it was under him, and doubtless with his encouragement, that a ius novum, 
strongly influenced by the decretals, developed; as collections of significant 
decisions built up, the result was indeed a kind of case law. ‘Case law’ is not, 
however, a completely adequate description, because the decretals often con- 
sidered wider legal questions. Decretal law is not a coherent legal code, and for a 
long time the acceptance of individual decretals depended solely on a consensus 
of canonists, who from 1170 onwards made occasional reference to individual 

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The development of law 


decretals in their commentaries on the Decretum. In any case, to talk about 
legislation ‘by decretals’ is misleading. Decretals, as a source of law, were much 
more like the imperial rescripts of ancient Roman law. 

The new law of the papal decretals was at first treated sporadically by the 
canonists in their commentaries on the Decretum. From 1170 they began to 
make independent, and at first rather random, compilations of important 
recent decretals, chiefly for the use of ecclesiastical judges who wanted to be up 
to date with the newest developments in the law. Such of these compilations 
as survive are mostly of English provenance: to an extent this may be due to 
the simultaneous development of the common law. 

From 1175 the decretals were being gathered into systematic and orderly col- 
lections, which were at first known only locally. These systematic compilations 
prompted the development of specialised glosses or commentaries, modelled 
on the interpretation of Gratian, and also academic study of the decretals. There 
is evidence for the existence of a decretalist literature in England by the 1180s, 
when the Decretists still reigned supreme at Bologna. Things changed in about 
1188, when the Bolognese canonist Bernard of Pavia compiled a Breviarium 
extravagantium decretalium - a compendium, in five books, of all decretals 
issued since 1140. Bernard’s work was intended for use in both law schools 
and church courts. His comprehensive and well-organised work soon became 
known all over Europe and encouraged further supplementary compilations. 
The Breviarium joined the Decretum as a fundamental textbook of canon law, 
the source for all study of the decretals. 

Bernard’s Breviarium was glossed by the Bolognese canonists as soon as it 
appeared; indeed, he himself began the process. The great post-1200 Bolognese 
Decretists, such as Alanus Anglicus and Laurentius, were also active as de- 
cretalists: both wrote commentaries on the Breviarium. Bernard also prepared 
a Summa of his own compilation, which is of exceptional interest because it 
provides a more or less authentic explanation of the criteria and objectives (e.g. 
with regard to Old Testament law) he had in mind when choosing the texts 
for inclusion in the Breviarium. 

The copious outpouring of decretals continued after 1190 through the pon- 
tificates of Celestine III (1191-8) and in particular Innocent III (1198-1216). 
There is no doubt that the latter was the greatest of the law-giving popes. At 
first, the new law continued to be promulgated via canonistic compilations; 
many of these works are by professors working at Bologna, such as the English- 
men Gilbertus and Alanus, and the Spaniard Bernard of Compostella. This 
professorial control over the major texts of case law meant that the develop- 
ment of the law itself could not be controlled by the pope, since the choice 
of decretals included in each collection depended entirely on the caprice of 
the academic compiler. The pope seemed in danger of losing control over 

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the reception of decretalist law to the canonists. Because Innocent III saw the 
decretals as instruments of papal legislation, he must have been keen to exercise 
authority over the choice of material from his own decretals. He commissioned 
his notary, Petrus Collivaccinus, to make a collection of texts from the papal 
register; by 1209, Collivaccinus had duly gathered together all the laws from 
the first decade of Innocent’s pontificate. The collection was organised on the 
lines laid down by Bernard of Pavia and was intended to complete the latter’s 
work; it was subsequently known as the Compilatio tertia. 

The pope sent this authorised work to the University of Bologna with orders 
that its contents, approved by himself, should be used in all teaching and in 
all court cases. This gave the work something approaching the status of a legal 
code; it can certainly be seen as a milestone in the development of medieval 

Because this collection of Innocent Ill’s decretals began with the first year of 
his pontificate (1198), there was no authoritative collection covering the decade 
between the end of Bernard’s compilation and the accession of Innocent. This 
gap was filled in 1212 by the Bolognese canonist Johannes Galensis (John of 
Wales), who compiled a sequel to Bernard’s Breviarium. All three collections 
were used in the Bologna law school, which dubbed them, in chronological 
order, Compilatio I (the Breviarium ), Compilatio II (John of Wales) and Com- 
pilatio III (Innocent). These three together formed a systematic handbook of 
decretalist law which superseded all other competing compilations and was 
soon in use all over Europe. The standard commentaries on all three com- 
pilations were written by the leading Bolognese canonist Tancred: they were 
usually copied along with the decretals themselves as a Glossa ordinaria. After 
about 1215, the focus of canon-law studies began to shift towards the modern 
law of decretals. 

There was at first no authorised papal collection of Innocent’s decretals 
from 1210 onwards, and in particular for the legislation of the Fourth Lateran 
Council of 1215. There was one collection, by the Bolognese canonist Johannes 
Teutonicus, but it was not commissioned by the pope, and the pope refused to 
authorise it, which meant that it was slow to attract attention. Later Johannes’ 
collection was dubbed Compilatio IV, and in 1226 it was supplemented by a 
Compilatio V made by Honorius III (1216-27), containing the most important 
decretals from his own pontificate. As a result, from 1226 the canonists pos- 
sessed five works, with the status of legal codes, containing the decretals as a 
continuation of the Decretum Gratiani. In 1234 Gregory IX gathered the law 
issuing from the five Compilationes into a single statute book. This was the 
result of a complicated editorial process whereby the Dominican Raymond 
of Penafort directed the removal of outdated decretals and the resolution of 
dubious questions by new laws unrelated to any particular case. The work 

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The development of law 


was known as the Liber extravagantium decretalium (Liber extra), because it 
contained all the decretals which were not included in Gratian’s Decretum ; in 
1234 the pope sent it to the universities of Bologna, Padua and Paris for use as 
a statute book. The five earlier compilations ceased to be valid. 

Innocent Ill’s decretals show considerable changes since the time of 
Alexander III, both in the construction of the decretals and in the appli- 
cability of the directives. The arguments are highly developed stylistically, 
often with heavy theological overtones: in consequence canon law, as a legal 
discipline, never became a mere pendant of Roman law, but it was consid- 
erably influenced by the theological nature of its sources. Because Innocent’s 
decretals were often politically charged, concerned with the relations between 
the pope and secular rulers, the canonists began to work towards a distinctly 
legalistic political theory. On the basis of the decretals, canon-law study suc- 
cessfully developed into an independent discipline with its own methodology, 
separate from the Roman-based civil law, which Cardinal Hostiensis (d. 1271), 
the leading canonist of the thirteenth century, was already calling a mixta 


Legal theory in the twelfth century was concerned primarily with the inter- 
pretation of Roman- and canon-law texts, following the organisation of the 
sources - an approach which justifies the general description of writers on 
both civil and canon law as glossatores. It must be emphasised, however, that 
this period also saw the appearance of the first monographs on particular areas 
of law, and this made it possible, for the first time, to distinguish scientifically 
between such areas. The differentiation of different aspects of the law is one 
of the greatest achievements of legal study in the twelfth century. 

First in this field is the literature on procedural law, in the form of syste- 
matic Summae. There had been adumbrations of a literature on court procedure 
as far back as the ninth century with the appearance of the Pseudo-Isidorian 
Decretals, which had focused on innovations in procedural law. One ninth- 
century monograph on this subject is the Opusculum in yy Chapters by 
Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims. However, this remained unknown outside 
Rheims until the middle of the eleventh century. During the Gregorian re- 
form, the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals were much consulted, and this aroused 
interest in the procedural rules for ecclesiastical courts - an interest which 
Gratian emphatically shared, for he devotes a substantial part of the Decretum 
to procedural questions and assumes on principle that even in a case of mani- 
fest guilt, a properly conducted trial is required. At about the same time as the 
Decretum, the first works specifically devoted to procedure appeared: first for 

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Roman law, the so-called Ordines iudiciorum, and soon after for canon law, the 
Ordines iudiciarii, a term taken over from Gratian. 

The first of the Roman-law Ordines was the epistolary work of Bulgarus 
(mentioned above), which was written before 1140. As the twelfth century 
progressed, further procedural treatises were produced in Italy, chief among 
them the Ordo ‘Invocato Christi nomine by Bencivenne, a Sienese judge, 
which appeared shortly after 1198. A substantial description of ecclesiastical 
procedure was written in the same decade at Bologna: the Ordo iudiciarius of 
Ricardus Anglicus. 

However, the bulk of twelfth-century procedural literature comes from 
France, England and Germany. Works not composed at Bologna are chiefly de- 
voted to ecclesiastical procedure and draw mainly on Gratian. They graphically 
demonstrate the fact that church courts were eagerly adopting a procedural 
law based on a unified set of principles. Among these Ordines iudiciarii is the 
Rhetorica ecclesiastica, probably written in Hildesheim in about 1160; several 
similar works appeared around 1170 in Paris, Rheims and Cologne, and finally 
come the Roman-law and canon-law Ordines from England, of which the old- 
est is probably the Ordo ‘Ulpianus de edendo’{c. 1160-70). It is characteristic of 
English procedural literature that its citations of papal decretals are very up to 
date, which indicates that these works were being consulted in church courts. 

The procedural literature of the glossators culminates in the Ordo iudiciarius 
by the canonist Tancred, which was completed in 1216 and repeatedly updated 
thereafter. The importance of this work for medieval legal practice is indicated 
by the fact that it was translated into German and French. But twelfth-century 
procedural literature is not confined to general works: there were also collections 
of formulae, actions and objections ( exceptiones ), and treatises on the law of 
evidence and on appeals. 

The twelfth century produced works not only on procedural law, but also on 
criminal law, as soon as the interpretation of Roman-law sources had established 
a clear distinction between civil and criminal law. We now recognise two 
anonymous twelfth-century works on criminal law, the older of which may have 
been written before 1150, in Provence. No specialised works on criminal law 
were written at Bologna until the end of the twelfth century; here again Tancred 
deserves special mention, as the compiler of a Summula de criminibus. 

The rapid development of canon law through the post-Gratian decretals 
soon created a demand for monographs on the salient themes of ecclesiastical 
law. Monographs appeared on the electoral process, which was now strictly 
regulated for the first time (for example, it was established that the election of 
a pope required a two-thirds majority, as is still the case today). The second area 
for monographs was the law of marriage, which was in process of systematisa- 
tion both by canonists and in decretals. The first canonist to write treatises on 

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The development of law 


electoral and marriage law was Bernard of Pavia, in the 1170s. Tancred wrote a 
Summa de matrimonio between 1210 and 1214; in comparison with Bernard’s 
work, it includes many more innovations deriving from the decretals. 


century: pilius, azo, accursius 

Towards the end of the twelfth century, another generation of scholars gave 
a new lease of life to the Bolognese school of Roman-law glossators. One 
particularly versatile author was Pilius, a native of Medicina near Bologna; 
but he left Bologna for Modena in the 1180s. He wrote on procedural law and 
compiled collections of quaestiones and distinctiones, but his masterpiece is the 
Liber disputatorius, a substantial compilation of theoretical legal arguments. 
This ‘libellus’ is the first of a genre known as the ‘Brocarda’ compilations. In 
around 1200, Pilius also compiled a Summa of Lombard feudal law, the Libri 
feudorum, the first specimen of the abundant thirteenth-century output of 
works on feudal law. 

The most important disciple of Bulgarus was the Bolognese professor 
Johannes Bassianus, who wrote glosses, treatises on procedural law and sum- 
mulae on individual items from the Digest. He in turn was the teacher of Azo, 
with whose works the Bolognese school of glossators reached its apogee after 
1200. From 1190 to 1220 Azo was the leading professor of Roman law at the 
university of Bologna; among his many students were the most important 
Roman-law theorists and canonists of the first half of the thirteenth century, 
including Accursius (who compiled the Glossa ordinaria to the Corpus iuris 
civilis), and, among other canonists, probably Johannes Teutonicus. Accursius’ 
Glossa ordinaria draws heavily on Azo’s glosses on the Corpus iuris civilis, with 
the result that Azo, as transmitted by Accursius, influenced the dogmas of con- 
tinental civil law for centuries. No less important than Azo’s glosses is his work 
on the Corpus iuris civilis-. his Summae on the Codex and on the Institutes are 
both definitive, classic textbooks which were never superseded by later works 
and were still printed frequently in the sixteenth century. Azo’s works and Ac- 
cursius ’ glosses both had a decisive influence on legal practice. Later, Azo also 
indirectly influenced the development of the common law, for Bracton used 
him as an authority on Roman law. Bologna’s pre-eminence in the teaching of 
Roman law throughout the thirteenth century was mainly due to Azo. 


The development of the glossator school of Roman law, and the beginning 
of the academic study of canon law and the decretals, were paralleled in the 

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i 3 8 


twelfth and thirteenth centuries by the emergence of the common law. This 
branch of the law, the direct ancestor of so much in the modern English 
and American systems, used to be treated in isolation from civil and canon 
law. More recent research has shown, however, that on the institutional level 
the more learned branches did influence the common law: the latter did not 
exist in isolation from either continental development. The greatest difference 
between the development of the English common law and the continental civil 
and canon law (later to be subsumed in the ius commune, comprising elements 
of both of them) was that the former, unlike the latter, was never dominated 
by academics. The common law was a product of the royal courts, and of the 
guidance of lower courts through a system of ‘writs’ - formal orders issued by 
the chancery on royal authority. 

The new, native English law was ‘common’ because it was a unified sys- 
tem applying to the whole kingdom, relegating local customary law to second 
place; and English legal institutions also had some influence on the neigh- 
bouring countries of Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The common law was the 
only legal system in twelfth- and thirteenth-century Europe which could be 
described as more or less uniform and ‘national’ - the outcome, it seems, of an 
unusual byway in European legal history. The causes of this development are 
not easy to determine. In view of the fact that the common law was born in the 
first 150 years of Norman rule, one is tempted to attribute this unification of the 
legal system to the unusual exercise of domination by an originally alien, and 
numerically small, elite whose language and culture were removed from those 
of their Anglo-Saxon and Danish subjects. Norman control could be guaran- 
teed only by rigorous centralisation, which could be best achieved by means of 
a unified legal system. This unification also meant that the king’s high court 
could offer some genuine legal protection to his subjects: the implementation 
of royal justice became an essential tool in forging the population into a single 
English nation, and in the later middle ages it helped to promote the growth 
of an English national consciousness. Van Caenegem has shown that the 
existence of the English common law preceded the birth of the English nation 
itself. 10 The astonishingly rapid creation of the common law was also due to 
the fact that two of the post-Conquest monarchs took an unusual degree of 
initiative in the organising of royal justice: Henry I (1100-35) and, i n particular, 
his grandson Henry II (1154-89). 

The common law was the king’s law; it was implemented with the help 
of a ruling elite, some of whom were churchmen. However, this unified law 
did not rest chiefly on royal legislation, as it did in the Norman kingdom of 
Sicily and Naples, for example. It owed its origin rather to three institutional 

10 Van Caenegem (1973). 

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The development of law 


innovations. The first was the system of itinerant royal judges (justices in 
eyre), who from the time of Henry I toured the kingdom (irregularly at first) 
as the king’s representatives and inspectors, dispensing a standard of justice 
which appeared superior to that of the local courts. Above all, their judgements 
were backed by the kings authority: they offered rapid and effective legal 

Secondly, the judgements of the lower courts were guided by the system of 
royal writs. Originally informal orders from the king, from Henry I Is time 
they worked more like modern writs, i.e. official summonses which a plaintiff 
could obtain from the royal chancery: the claims and procedures which they 
imposed were binding on the lower courts just as the actions of the praetor 
were binding in classical Roman law. Because of the writ system, the decisions 
of the local courts had to be based on the king’s law, and their procedures had 
to follow a more or less consistent set of rules. The system of formal writs 
issued by the chancery on the royal authority imposed guidance on the lower 
courts all over the kingdom. 

Thirdly, by the twelfth century there was a supreme royal court at West- 
minster which was empowered to pronounce judgements in the king’s name 
even during his frequent absences (usually in France). Whereas in continental 
kingdoms the dispensing of royal justice was inseparable from the king’s own 
person and was, like him, itinerant, in England the royal court of justice was, 
after 1176, more or less self-sufficient. This meant that by 1200 England’s court 
system was comparatively advanced; and it developed further in the thirteenth 
century with the appearance of two additional supreme courts, the Court of 
Common Pleas and the King’s Bench. 

The uniqueness of the common law is rooted in the writ system: every rem- 
edy contained its own inherent right. The common law was further stabilised 
when, in about 1187, Glanvill wrote a comprehensive treatise on it which in- 
cluded the established forms for writs. Once there was an academic literature 
devoted to this new institution of the common law, its future was assured. 
Unlike continental legal literature, however, it continued to be produced by 
actual practitioners, which meant that the common-law training of English 
lawyers did not take place in the universities. 

Roman law was being taught in England by the twelfth century; the Liber 
pauperum of Vacarius had provided a popular explanation of the subject for 
English use. Occasional lectures on Roman law were being given at Oxford be- 
fore 1200, and perhaps even earlier at Lincoln, but there was no permanent law 
school comparable to Bologna. Such academic works on Roman law as were 
written in England - especially on procedural law - seem to have been 
mainly addressed to clerics. Canon law, which had had little impact on Anglo- 
Saxon England, became much more important in the Norman kingdom, as 

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can be deduced from the spread of pre-Gratian legal compilations, and later 
from compilations of decretals and canonical literature of English provenance. 
A knowledge of Roman and canon law was necessary in the church courts, 
and the disciplines of academic law strongly influenced many details of the 
common law, though they were never its foundation. In consequence, Eng- 
land never adopted the continental dichotomy between ius commune and ius 
proprium : England’s ius proprium was the common law. 


The juridical culture of twelfth-century Italy was considerably more advanced, 
owing to the intensive academic study of Roman and canon law: Italy was 
the first country in Europe to have a class of university-educated self-styled 
jurists, who soon became indispensable functionaries in her numerous cities 
and could anticipate excellent career prospects. In northern Italy, Roman and 
canon law were supplemented by a third, regional legal discipline, Lombard 
law, which was based on the laws of the early medieval Lombard and Frankish 
kings and was not finally systematised until about 1100, in the Lombarda code. 
In the twelfth century Lombard law was taught in Pavia, Milan and Mantua, 
and from 1150 it had its own learned commentaries or Summae, in the earliest of 
which there is no mention of Roman law. Very different was the attitude of the 
Beneventan jurist Carolus de Tocco, who compiled a definitive commentary 
on the Lombarda around 1215 in which he referred continually to Roman law. 
Though the Lombard law of northern Italy was superseded in the thirteenth 
century by city statutes and the ius commune, it lingered in some of the former 
Lombard areas of southern Italy into the late middle ages. 

Again in the twelfth century, the decisions of north Italian feudal courts 
and the specialised literature on feudal law gave rise to a feudal form of ius 
commune which was codified in the Libri feudorum and found its way into the 
Corpus iuris civilis. This development was stimulated by the feudal legislation 
of the emperors in their capacity as kings of Italy: the first such statute was 
promulgated by Conrad II (1037), another by Lothar III in 1136, and this was 
followed by the feudal statutes issued by Frederick I Barbarossa at the Diet 
of Roncaglia in 1158. Thus feudal law was the first area of medieval law to be 
regulated extensively through statutes; from the twelfth century onwards, in 
most European countries, it was considered a separate domain, as can be seen, 
for example, in Germany in Eike von Repgow’s Sachsenspiegel ( c . 1225), which 
distinguishes between feudal law ( Lehnrecht ) and customary law ( Landrecht ). 
Feudal relationships existed not only in rural society, but also in the north 
Italian cities, in which feudal law was modified through the practice of the 
special feudal courts whose existence is adumbrated in Conrad II’s statute. 

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The development of law 


The first treatises on feudal law appeared some time after 1100 in Pavia, but 
from 1150 their production was concentrated in Milan, where the outstanding 
authority in Barbarossas time was Obertus de Orto. Subsequently statutes, 
practice and academic literature were brought together in the Libri feudorum, 
the first redaction of which appeared in Milan before 1158. The Libri feudorum, 
as the work of urban jurists, pay more attention to the regulation of feudal 
holdings than to personal feudal relationships. 

The Libri feudorum, supplemented by the statutes of Frederick I, reached 
Bologna by about 1220, when the glossator Hugolinus included them as an in- 
novation appended to the Roman-law compilation known as th eAuthenticum. 
This subsequently brought them into the Corpus iuris civilis, in which form 
they were later (c. 1250) revised by Accursius, who provided them with a Glossa 
ordinaria modelled on older commentaries. 

Thus the Bologna school made feudal law into a part of the ius commune. 
Therefore, wherever Roman law went, this feudal law followed, although it 
rarely ousted local feudal systems outside Italy. 

The legislative activity of the north Italian cities in the twelfth century was 
not confined to feudal law. New laws are dubbed statuta, a term already in 
use in the twelfth century. The first statutory law was developed in the Italian 
cities in the form of oaths to the city council: thus in Genoa (1143) and Pisa 
(1155). After Barbarossa had introduced the podesta constitution, which turned 
the independent communes into monocracies, it was the podesta himself who 
issued new laws with the consensus of the commune, as in Verona (1205). 
Although Roman-law jurists did not accept the statutory competence of the 
communes until the time of the post-glossators, in the fourteenth century, the 
cities were in fact issuing statutes as far back as the middle of the twelfth 
century; the city republics of the thirteenth century took the right to issue 
statutes as a token of their own independence, although such statutes were 
always supplemented by Roman law, as ius commune, and were valid only in 
the context of this higher legal order. 


The thirteenth century also saw the first statutes in countries outside Italy, and 
inherited customary law was inscribed in lawbooks: as the Europe of nation 
states began its slow development, monarchs began to exercise their statutory 
powers. This legislation was modelled on the codification and continuing elab- 
oration of ecclesiastical law. In the German areas of the Holy Roman Empire, 
the public peace was regulated by statutes issued by Frederick Barbarossa; the 
first dates from 1152, the year of his accession. It is debatable whether the impe- 
rial public peace decreed by Frederick I was effective without formal acceptance 

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by his subjects, i.e. whether its legitimacy depended entirely on the emperor’s 
statutory powers. However, even in Barbarossa’s time such decrees should be 
reckoned as statutes, because he considered himself to be the successor of the 
ancient Roman emperors. Apart from the public peace, which appertained to 
criminal law in so far as it dealt with breaches of that peace, the German 
Roman Emperors did not issue a great many statutes in the German sphere, 
though they did issue laws in the form of privileges which were granted, inter 
alia, to individual cities such as Ltibeck. The Ottonian and Salian emperors 
had at times issued such privileges, which had the force of law, so the Staufen 
emperors were following a long tradition. The law of German cities was, as a 
rule, based on privileges granted by the local lord or founder, so it differed in 
its origin from the independent Italian communes. 

In so far as Germany was governed by customary law, this was not written 
down until the thirteenth century. The earliest German lawbook is the Sachsen- 
spiegel (Mirror of the Saxons), compiled between 1215 and 1235: it is the most 
important evidence for native law before the shift towards Roman law, and 
comes from north Germany, probably from the Dessau region. This lawbook 
was known all over Germany and into eastern Europe, where, sometimes in 
translation, it provided many countries with their first taste of fixed, written law. 

In France, too, the first statutes date from before 1200, at a time when 
the monarchy was relatively weak: the first is a statute on the public peace 
by King Louis VII in 1155. In the same century, however, some of the rulers 
of the virtually independent, and sometimes highly centralised, French fiefs 
issued statutes on their own account. This applies to Normandy under the 
English kings Henry I and Henry II; however, the duchy of Normandy was 
closely bound up with legal developments in the English kingdom, and until 
Normandy was lost to England in 1204 it followed the same unusual legal 
path as the latter. Statutes issued by the counts of Flanders, both for individual 
cities and for the whole country, survive from the second half of the twelfth 
century. Flanders, like northern Italy, was economically in advance of the rest of 
Europe and had already developed an extensive urban culture, which prompted 
a special interest in legal security backed by a written code. The keuren issued 
by the counts for Flemish cities are comparable to the Italian city statutes, 
though in Flanders the statutes were issued by the local lord. 

In the Iberian Peninsula, where the extensive legislation of the Visigothic 
kings was never completely forgotten, royal statutes on the public peace appear 
earlier than in most other European countries. In 1211 the Portuguese king 
Alfonso II issued a code known as the Establecimentos de Coimbra-, another 
such, the Leges Alfonsi, was promulgated by Alfonso IX of Leon in 1208. 
These works precede the comprehensive legislation of Alfonso X of Castile in 
the middle of the thirteenth century: his Siete partidas can be considered the 
greatest statutory achievement by any medieval ruler. 

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The development of law 


Among other European kingdoms we may mention Sicily and Hungary, 
whose kings were issuing important statutes before 1230. The history of Sicil- 
ian legislation begins under the first king of the new state, Roger II, who issued 
‘assises’. According to a contemporary report, Roger was consciously assuming 
imperial legislative powers. 11 His example was followed by his grandson, Fred- 
erick II: the Constitutions of Melfi (of 1231) are rivalled only by Alfonso X’s 
Siete partidas. The legal history of the Sicilian kingdoms is unlike any other 
in Europe, for both the Norman and the Staufen kings modelled themselves 
on the Byzantine image of the ruler as both legislator and guarantor of the 
law. Frederick II’s statutes for Sicily have many unusual, sometimes modern- 
sounding features. Many aim to protect the prosperity of cities; rules for the 
training of doctors and apothecaries have a particularly modern ring. The Con- 
stitutions of Melfi establish an unusual procedural institution, the defensa, by 
which any individual who considered himself an injured party could appeal to 
the king, or commission a royal official to appeal on his behalf. These statutes 
assume that the kings guarantee of legal protection is a priority of government. 

Hungary, like Sicily, lay between the western and Byzantine cultural spheres. 
Here, too, the kings were quick to adopt statutory functions: according to a 
rather dubious tradition this began with the first of them, St Stephen (100-38). 
The first historically dependable statute is the ground-breaking Golden Bull 
of Andrew II (1222), which has certain features in common with Magna Carta 

In Norway a unified law code for the country ( Landsloeg or Land law) 
was promulgated in 1274 by King Magnus VI Hakonsson ( Lagaboetir or Law- 

This sketch of the legislative activities of secular rulers in the twelfth and 
thirteenth centuries reveals substantial differences between countries. Statutes 
were most likely to be issued in countries which still felt the influence of 
late Roman or Byzantine traditions (in the first case Spain, in the second 
Sicily); or in the more highly urbanised areas (Flanders). The rulers of Germany 
and France tended to confine themselves to questions of elementary security, 
especially breaches of the public peace. 


Before 1100 law was mostly a matter of oral tradition, with no permanent 
written form, so that it is difficult to know to what geographical area it applied, 
or whether certain areas had any law - for example, criminal law - of their 

11 It is, however, doubtful whether Roger II issued the assises at one time at the court of Ariano in 
1140, although this is frequently stated. See Matthew (1992), pp. 184-8. 

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own. In the twelfth century, by contrast, ecclesiastical law in particular, but also 
secular law in some areas, depended on fixed, written norms. These written laws 
distinguish, and remodel, sections of society which previously had had only a 
rudimentary legal existence. This matter can be discussed only briefly here. 

Perhaps the most important change was to the constitution and procedure 
of the courts. As far as church law was concerned, one of the results of the 
post-Gregorian controversies was a hierarchical restructuring of the ecclesias- 
tical courts, with the pope at their head as the supreme and omnicompetent 
ecclesiastical judge. This hierarchy of authority was embodied in the constitu- 
tion of the twelfth-century church courts and became the model for centrally 
organised European states such as England and Sicily. This authoritarian struc- 
ture required procedural rules to assign competence in different areas of law to 
the various courts. Hence rules for appeals developed: they occupy a good deal 
of space in the twelfth-century decretals. These regulations, which belonged 
initially to canon law, were later applied also to secular law along with the in- 
herited rules of Roman procedure, with the result that continental procedural 
law followed the Roman and/or canonical model until well into modern times. 

The new procedural law also depended on the assumption that the outcome 
of the trial must reflect a truth which could be gauged by reason {ratio). The 
academic lawyers, deeply imbued with early scholastic rationalism, had in fact 
subjected the law itself - and procedural law in particular - to those same 
standards of rationality. This is particularly clear in the changed attitude to- 
wards legal proof, especially in the rejection of the ordeal by the Fourth Lateran 
Council - the highest ecclesiastical authority - in 1215. Witness statements and 
documentary evidence mostly replaced irrational proofs such as the judicial 
combat and other ordeals. Similarly, the constitution of the jury as deciders in 
the English common law rests on the principle of rational proof. 

In the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries the church, and the church 
alone, had extensive procedural regulations which could be mastered only by 
trained judges. They needed to be professionally qualified through the study 
of canon law. The result was that, from the late twelfth century onwards, the 
ecclesiastical courts became the exclusive province of professional judges or 
officiales. The ‘Official’, a permanent judge appointed by the bishop, appeared 
first in Rheims and later in other French dioceses in the last two decades of the 
twelfth century, and the institution was adopted by England and Germany in 
the following century. 

In the second half of the twelfth century this Official, or professional ec- 
clesiastical judge, was joined by another new institution that appeared first in 
Italy: the public notary. Authorised notaries were a necessity once documentary 
proof had become an important part of procedural law: a document signed 
by a notary (a notarial instrument) was considered particularly reliable. The 

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The development of law 145 

first rulers to appoint public notaries were Pope Alexander III and the emperor 
Frederick Barbarossa. 

Criminal law, as an independent domain, is often described as a twelfth- 
century innovation. This claim is supported by the fact that contemporary 
statutes on the public peace decreed heavy punishments, uncommutable to 
fines, for breaches of that peace. Such statutes also attempted, with varying 
success, to stem the use of traditional self-help methods such as the feud. 
Instead of fines, physical punishments (‘life and limb’) were often decreed, 
although remnants of the older system of fines or composition lingered on 
into the early modern period. 

Alongside the punishments decreed by secular rulers, the church maintained 
its own substantial body of criminal law, which was not confined to the disci- 
plining of errant clerics but also covered excommunication, which was an 
effective sanction at that time. Canon law also developed additional sanctions, 
in particular the interdict, which the church used as a weapon in its struggle to 
establish its power and overcome secular resistance. The interdict, which cut 
off the entire country or area of the malefactor(s) from the sacraments of the 
church, constituted a highly effective ecclesiastical boycott, which was used 
(for example) by Pope Innocent III against King John of England and resulted 
in England’s becoming a fief of the Holy See. 

The difference between criminal and civil procedure was already clear in 
twelfth-century canon law. A criminal action usually began with a private 
complaint, but Innocent III brought in a decisive innovation, the inquest, 
which first was applied to the discipline of the clergy, but later became a criminal 
procedure, with its own rules, an alternative to the traditional accusation. Trial 
by inquest did not require an individual accuser: if there were grounds for 
suspicion, an inquest could be initiated ex officio. This originally ecclesiastical 
procedure was adopted in the secular sphere. It marks a change of paradigm in 
the criminal law: acceptance of the notion that punishment is the prerogative 
of a higher authority, and that the Christian higher authority has a duty to 
proceed against malefactors. However, the inquest never became part of the 
common law, with the result that by 1200 there was a fundamental difference 
between criminal procedure in England and on the continent, a difference 
which has endured to the present day. 

Another twelfth-century innovation was the codification of feudal law. Me- 
dieval society was predominantly aristocratic, and for the nobility feudal law 
was at least as important as civil law. Land ownership was extensively regu- 
lated by feudal law: indeed, traces of it remain in the common law to this day. 
The constitution of many medieval European kingdoms was regulated by feu- 
dal law; this is particularly clear in Germany under the Staufens, where all the 
princes of the Holy Roman Empire were feudally dependent on the king. Power 

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relationships were regulated by feudal law. Two of the biggest political disputes 
of the century, Barbarossa’s action against Henry the Lion and that of Philip 
II Augustus of France against King John as duke of Normandy, were pursued 
largely under feudal law. The ius feodale and the canon law can be considered 
the twin precursors of public law as developed in modern European states. 

The trend towards written law, which made it possible to assimilate Roman 
law, went hand in hand with what was obviously a determined effort to establish 
legal certainty by means of jurisdiction. Such legal certainty was furthered by 
the rationalisation of criteria of proof, and also by the development of firm 
rules on prescription - another domain in which canon law was ahead of the 
secular sphere. Prescription (or limitation) protected the wealth of ecclesiastical 
institutions, which retained a considerable degree of independence despite 
the centralisation of the church. The medieval church was not administered 
like a modern bureaucratic state: clergy generally drew their income not as 
a salary paid by a centralised authority, but as a benefice based on revenues 
whose value must not be allowed to diminish. The medieval benefice system 
served as a counterweight to the centralising tendencies of the church. A clear, 
well-established law also assured litigants that they would quickly obtain the 
legal protection afforded by procedural innovations. A particularly notable 
instrument was the possessory action, which made it possible to issue temporary 
regulations to ensure peace under the law. The burden of proof in such cases 
was relatively light. 

The introduction of possessory writs was one of the most important innova- 
tions made by Henry II, and a step on the road to the common law. Possessory 
actions were prominent in the church in the twelfth century, in connection 
with such matters as the patronage of churches, the possession of benefices and, 
under marriage law, the temporary regulation of marital relationships. Posses- 
sory actions increased the efficiency of the legal system; even the unprivileged 
classes of society expected some legal protection, at least from the church, 
one of whose self-proclaimed duties was the protection of miserabiles personae. 
These included all socially disadvantaged persons - widows, orphans, pau- 
pers, pilgrims and the sick. The church also provided for the upbringing and 
maintenance of such persons: thus canon law also included provisions for the 
furtherance of social welfare. 


The inheritance of the twelfth century, which has been called the age of the 
jurists, consists above all in the shaping of legal culture by two factors, legis- 
lation and the law schools, and their mutual influence. In antiquity the only 

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The development of law 


real academic legal discipline had been Roman jurisprudence. Although the 
concept of Roman law (ius) was the result of theoretical study and its practice 
(leges) a product of legislation, the zenith of classical jurisprudence and the 
zenith of legislation did not coincide, so that their mutual influence is a matter 
of hindsight. The twelfth century was different, especially in the field of canon 
law. The academic discipline of canon law arose directly from Gratian, but 
papal law-giving - the decretals - also increased in the mid-century, so that 
the two were parallel from the beginning. Ecclesiastical legislation reached its 
zenith in 1215 with the Fourth Lateran Council; in the same year Johannes 
Teutonicus completed the Glossa ordinaria on Gratian, the ‘Summa’ of all 
canonistic output. 

In the secular sphere, Roman law was scarcely influenced by legislation 
through the twelfth and thirteenth centuries; it was the academics who turned 
it into the ius commune of medieval Europe. After 1200, however, there was 
abundant legislation of ius proprium in many European countries: even without 
reference to ecclesiastical developments, the thirteenth century can be described 
as a century of legislation. The common law took a somewhat lonely path: it was 
largely directed by the central authority of the king, but innovations took place 
overwhelmingly not through formal legislation, but on the basis of decisions 
in the high courts. However, there are parallels between the development of 
the common law under Henry II and that of the papal decretals, if we view the 
latter in isolation from the contemporary academic discipline of canon law. 

All in all, the twelfth and thirteenth centuries were a ‘foundation period’ in 
legal history: they saw the establishment of a legal culture which has lasted with- 
out a break to the present day. This western legal culture had three elements: 
legislation, sometimes reforming legislation, which culminated in comprehen- 
sive lawbooks such as the Liber extra of Gregory IX; authoritative decisions 
by the highest courts in a hierarchical organisation; and the academic disci- 
pline of jurisprudence, which created a class of university-educated lawyers. 
The period between the pontificates of Gregory VII and Innocent III saw the 
professionalisation of the European judiciary. Thereafter it was their task to 
turn the archaic system of customary law into a professional discipline based 
on legislation and case law. Perhaps the most important bequest of the twelfth 
century to secular legal culture has been the high status of the judiciary in the 
modern western culture of Europe and - later - America. 

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Jean Flori 


At the beginning of the eleventh century, Bishop Adalbero of Laon expressed, 
in a famous formula, the ecclesiastical theory of western Christian society, 
formed in the image of the celestial realities. The ‘House of God’, he said, 
which was believed to be one, was in reality three, because in it three categories 
of men performed three distinct functions: the first prayed, the second fought 
and the third worked . 1 

For the ecclesiastics of the period - whose opinions are the only ones to have 
come down to us - this phrase expressed the conception of a society which was 
immutable since willed by God. ‘Those who pray’ (the oratores ) clearly came 
first, since they served as intermediaries between God and His creatures, for 
whom they translated His will, or interceded by their liturgies or their prayers, 
before His throne. The third category, those who toiled and sweated in manual 
labour (the laboratores), still consisted almost entirely of peasants who, by tilling 
the soil, fed everyone. The growth of towns, one of the chief features of the 
period under discussion, would add artisans and workers, while the rise of 
the commercial bourgeoisie would pose the difficult problem of how to insert 
merchants into an ideological model which had made no provision for them. 

Only the second category is of direct concern to us here: those who fought 
(the bellatores or pugnatores). To Adalbero, this meant essentially lay princes 
and in particular the kings to whom God had entrusted the mission of ruling 
the world and ensuring in His name order and peace, guided by the bishops. 
His vision did not descend to the level of the simple executants, the soldiery; 
their very humble social status ranked them rather with the labourers. There 
was still, at this date, ‘no warrior order ’. 2 Here, Adalbero represented a rather 

1 ‘Triplex ergo Dei domus est, quae creditur Una;/ Nunc orant, alii pugnant, aliique laborant’, Adalbero 
of Laon, Carmen ad Rotbertum regem , 297—8. 

2 Duby (1978), p. 79 (p. 58 of English translation); Batany (1978), pp. 24-34. 


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Knightly society 


conservative strand of thought. In the eleventh century, the warriors were 
emerging from obscurity. This is visible in all the sources, in which the word 
which describes them ( milites ) appears with increasing frequency . 3 

This term, which historians till recently translated almost systematically 
(albeit mistakenly) by the word ‘knights’, deserves attention, as it is not free 
from ambiguity. The eleventh-century Latin sources used it in the general sense 
of ‘soldiers’, whatever type or method of combat was at issue, but also with the 
meaning of service, armed or not. Thus the monks who, by prayer, served God 
and confronted the forces of evil in spiritual combat were called ‘servants (or 
soldiers) of God’ ( milites Dei). They nevertheless belonged to the order of ora- 
tores. In the singular [miles), the word is even more ambiguous since it retained 
the old sense which applied to public service; it could also mean a vassal. 

In the case of the warriors properly speaking, the term which indicated them 
[milites) did not yet, in the eleventh century, imply a particular social status, 
still less a privileged rank, or even a specific way of fighting, mounted or on 
foot . 4 At the beginning of the twelfth century, chroniclers of the First Crusade 
such as Fulcher of Chartres still sometimes retained the wide sense of the term, 
almost general half a century earlier, as when they described an army of soldiers 
[milites) composed of men on horseback [equites) and men on foot [pedites)!’ 
At this period, nevertheless, the preponderance of the heavy cavalry and its 
growing prestige had already begun to make men on horseback the arbiters of 
battles and a privileged entity. In the eyes of contemporaries, the true warriors 
must be mounted. The vocabulary reflects this evolution: Fulcher of Chartres, 
like many other chroniclers, also frequently used the term milites to mean those 
he elsewhere called horsemen [equites) in contrast to footsoldiers [pedites ); 
whilst Baudri of Bourgueil systematically opposed the pedites to the milites, 
classing the latter together with the knights . 6 

The sources called ‘literary’, in vernacular languages, testify to the same 
evolution which intensified during the twelfth century. The knights — for that 
is what they now were - play a key role. But here, too, we should take care 
not to be deceived by words. For while the terms which indicate them in such 
works do indeed mean a warrior on horseback, an elite fighter, they do not 
necessarily at first imply a high social level or, even less, some title of nobility, 
as would later be the case . 7 

3 Van Luyn (1971), pp. 45-7. 4 Flori (1986b), pp. 226-30; Carpentier (1991). 

5 ‘Milites, tam equites quam pedites.’ For example, Fulcher of Chartres, Historia Hierosolymitana 1.21; 
1.33; 11.16, etc.; Radulf Glaber, Historiae 1.3, 7; 111.2, 7; 111.9, 38; iv.9, 26; v.4, 21, etc. 

6 Fulcher of Chartres, Historia Hierosolymitana 11.1; 11.6; 11.11, etc.; Baudri of Bourgueil, Historia 
Hierosolymitana 11.1; 11.3; 11.15; hi. 21, etc. Flori (1999a), pp. 202-25 and (1999b). 

7 For old French, see Flori (1975); for Germanic areas, see Bumke (1964), Reuter (1971) and Jackson 
(1:994); for occitanian regions, see Paterson (1981) and (1993). 

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The knights were now generally regarded as constituting a clearly defined 
professional group, but not yet a social class or caste. This change, however, was 
under way and the twelfth century marked the true rise of the knightly class, 
which increasingly took on aristocratic colours and tended to merge, in certain 
regions at least, with the nobility of which it was the military and secular 
expression. 8 Its social ascent was accompanied by an ideological promotion 
and the slow formation of a specific ethic which is generally called the chivalric 
ideal: an ideal which owed much to the church, which had tried to mould the 
knights and infuse them with its moral and religious values, but also much to 
other more profane if not pagan values, their origins in the distant past but 
restored to favour through the intermediary of romance literature, in particular 
of Celtic inspiration. 

By the end of the twelfth century, there was undoubtedly ‘a warrior order’, 
that is, the knights. When, in 1175, he compiled his Livre des manieres, Stephen 
of Fougeres adopted Adalbero’s classification, but for him it was the knights 
who were charged with the divine mission to protect the church and the whole 
of Christian society. 9 

A century and a half separated Adalbero from Stephen, and a number of 
changes had taken place during the course of this period. First, in the political 
domain, the fragmentation of Europe did not mean its decline and the demo- 
graphic increase which was beginning reversed a trend: Europe was no longer 
besieged, but in its turn went on the offensive against its neighbours, pagan or 
Muslim, more or less deliberately confused for propaganda purposes. 10 Second, 
in the social domain, the need of the princes for power led them to surround 
themselves with milites. At the same time, the need for peace in a troubled 
world persuaded the church to concern itself with the warriors and define 
more clearly their status and their duties. Third, in the technical domain, a 
number of innovations profoundly modified the art of war and conferred on 
the knights a greater pre-eminence. All these factors created or accelerated the 
trend towards the formation of a knightly society which was aware of itself and 
produced its own ideology. 


The great political groupings of the Carolingian period were succeeded by 
a fragmentation which was once seen as decline and degeneration. Work 

8 Flori (1986a) and (1998a), pp. 64ff; but see also Cardini (1982); Barbero (1987); Barthel£my (1993a), 
pp. 36iff and (1993b). 

9 ‘Li Clerc deivent por toz orer,/Li chevalier sanz demorer/deivent defendre et ennorer ,/ et li pai'sant 
laborer, Etienne de Fougeres, Le Livre des manieres , 169, lines 673-6. 

10 Daniel (i960) and (1984); Bancourt (1982); Senac (1983); Bray (1984); Rotter (1986); Flori (1992c) 
and (1998b), ch. 4; Ducellier (1996); Tolan (1996) and (1997). 

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Knightly society 151 

published since the 1980s has enabled historians to adopt a significantly less 
pessimistic and negative viewpoint. 11 

This fragmentation led first, from the end of the ninth century, to the 
formation of territorial principalities where the princes, dukes and counts held 
the powers of military coercion, justice and minting money. 

As the eleventh century progressed, this movement of devolution did not 
stop at their level. Almost everywhere in Europe, sooner or later and to varying 
degrees, the reality of power passed down to a lower social level. In much of 
Europe, this phenomenon began between 980 and 1030. Elsewhere, it contin- 
ued throughout the eleventh century. We need therefore to describe, for the 
chronological span which is our concern, the ‘seigneuriaT society (some say 
‘knightly’ society, for reasons which will become clear) contemporary with this 
downwards seepage of the powers of the counts to the lords, the castellans. It 
covered, roughly speaking, the whole period to be considered here, since it was 
towards the end of the twelfth century, between 1180 and 1200, that the castel- 
lans lost their autonomy in the very regions in which it had been strongest, 
that is in France. The central monarchical power was then reconstituted and 
acquired a new strength by basing itself on the concept of feudalism which was 
the product of the seigneurial age. 

Putting aside the right to mint money, we will focus our attention on the two 
other regalian rights mentioned above, which clearly illustrate the seigneurial 

By ‘seigneurial revolution’ I mean a broad social and ideological movement 
which increasingly affirmed the power of castellans and knights. This develop- 
ment seems to me to be undeniable, whether it took place in the context of a 
rapid ‘feudal mutation’ c. 1000 (as has been claimed until quite recently in the 
wake of research stimulated by Georges Duby) or (as some others now believe) 
in the more settled context of a slow evolution or ‘feudal revelation’ which was 
the result of the real ‘feudal revolution’ which occurred much earlier on the 
political level after 888 with the disintegration of the Carolingian empire. With 
regard to knightly society this question is not yet settled. Probably the answer 
will reflect both the regions studied and the presuppositions of historians, in 
particular their ideas of nobility and knighthood, which are often confused 
with each other. 

Comital authority can be measured by the powers we have mentioned: mili- 
tary command, symbolised and realised by the possession of public fortresses, 12 
and justice, that is the right to judge free men and to collect the fines which 
ensued. These two powers gradually passed from counts to castellans. In some 

11 Poly and Bournazel (1980); Debord (1981) and (1992); Fossier (1982); Barthdemy (1986), (1990) and 
(1999); Geary (1986); Bournazel and Poly (1998). 

12 Lemarignier (1951); Fournier (1978); Les Fortifications de terre (1981); Debord (2000). 

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T 5 2 


regions they remained under comital control and castellanships do not seem to 
have become emancipated; in others, on the other hand, especially during suc- 
cession crises, comital authority did not always successfully maintain itself, and 
the resulting struggles saw the formation of autonomous, if not independent, 
lordships. In either case the outcome depended on effective control of castles 
and of the milites attached to them, and this shows the growing importance of 
the latter. We need not present this as a triumph of anarchy and as general social 
and economic disorder. On the economic level there is every indication that 
lasting progress had begun in the west. Moreover, the disintegration of unified 
central power with the end of the Carolingian empire did not have immedi- 
ate consequences everywhere: they became apparent slowly and in different 

In certain regions, in fact, and not the least important ones, central authority 
resisted with some success, and in their case we can talk of ‘power maintained’. 
This was particularly the case in the Germanic region, where the authority 
of the dukes persisted and where the fortresses were held by garrisons of the 
emperor or entrusted to unfree court officials, the ministers {ministeriales ) , who 
often served him loyally. Seigneurial justice, too, was slow to emerge, and the 
hereditary landowners, the allod owners, continued to be answerable to the 
comital court. This was also the case in Flanders, where the count retained his 
control over the construction of all fortresses: the new castles were built with 
his permission and often on his initiative, and were entrusted to agents who 
could be removed. This situation lasted throughout the eleventh century. 13 The 
multiplication of castles here testifies to the militarisation of the society ruled 
by the count, not to a diminution of his power. 

Normandy, till recently seen as the very model of the maintenance of ducal 
authority, resisted the rise of the castellans less successfully than was once 
thought, for example after the death of Duke Robert (1035). The young William 
found it far from easy to take possession of the county; he had to destroy the 
‘illegal’ castles (that is, built or occupied against him) and exile several ‘noble’ 
families. The conquest of England (1066) by his faithful companions, and that 
of Sicily by ‘dissidents’ (1060-80), served both as a diversion for seigneurial 
turbulence and as an outlet which reinforced ducal authority. The duke was 
able to maintain his control over warriors and fortresses, few of which, in fact, 
are known before 1066. In contrast, after William’s death, private fortresses 
proliferated. 14 

13 Ganshof (1943); Diirst (i960); Genicot (i960), (1961) and (1975); Bosl (1962); Van Winter (1962) 
and (1986); Vercauteren (1968); Schramm (1969); Freed (1976); Fossier (1982), pp. 387-99; Dereck 
(1983); Arnold (1985); Pellaton (1998). 

14 Yver (1955-6); Musset (1976) and (1979); Le Maho (1977); Debord (1981) and (1983); Bates (1982), 
pp. 101-26; Brown (1984); De Boliard (1984), pp. 103-217; Arnoux (1992). 

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Some of the same developments can be seen in England, where it seems now 
to be accepted, after much debate, that castles increased in number soon after 
the Conquest, to the point where there were between 500 and 600 in England 
alone by 1100. Most were major fortresses intended for the surveillance and 
control of centres of population, entrusted to companions of the Conqueror, 
but some were smaller castles held by barons, who were ‘subtenants’. The num- 
ber of these fortified places diminished during the twelfth century, partly for 
political reasons (the pacification was complete), and partly because more com- 
fortable residences of stone were preferred to these castles of earth and wood. 
In England, in comparison with the greater part of France, the construction of 
castles happened more rapidly and was more closely controlled by the central 
power, though we should not exaggerate the strength of the latter. Further, 
neither seigneurial customs nor castellans emerged. Knights were proportion- 
ally more numerous and aristocratic social mobility greater in England than in 
France. Justice remained in the hands of the king (who tended to reduce the 
role of the private courts established before the Conquest), whether directly in 
the case of the barons, or indirectly through the intermediary of the earls in 
the case of the valvassors, and the hundred and manor courts in the case of the 
subordinate classes. 15 

In the small Spanish kingdoms, expanding with the help of the Roman 
church and of warriors from the other side of the Pyrenees, ‘feudalism’ was 
gradually put in place and showed both resemblances to and notable differences 
from its model in the south of France. The conspicuously military nature of the 
aristocracy did not remove the distinction between nobility and knighthood; 
the latter long remained subordinate and rustic. In Catalonia, too, at least in 
the vicinity of Barcelona, the central power continued to exist. The castles 
remained in the hands of the count and his direct dependants. His control 
of military service remained total, as did his authority over the church. The 
crisis which shook Catalonia between 1020 and 1060 led to the appearance of 
fiefs of private origin, but Berenguer I was able to recover them, by utilising 
and developing feudalism, causing the majority of the castellans to enter into 
personal dependence on him. However, the new aristocratic society which 
then prevailed was open to a new, still subordinate, layer, that of the castellans 
supported by their troops of milites . 16 Also, after 1040, comital justice was 
gradually curtailed to the benefit of seigneurial courts. 

15 Hollister (1965); Renn (1973); Brown (1976); Le Patourel (1976); King (1983) and (1988); Chibnall 
(1986) and (1989); Eales (1990); see also Douglas (1964); Brown, R. A. (1989); Crouch (1992); Coss 

16 Sanchez-Albornoz (1968); Grassotti (1969); Bonnassie (1976), pp. i23ff, 644-6 and (1994); Barbero 
and Vigil (1978); Lewis (1984); Zimmermann (1986); En torno al feudalismo (1989); Laliena 
Corbera and S6nac (1991); Alvarez Borge (1993); Martinez-Sopena (1993); Aurell (1994); Gerbet 

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In Italy, a synthesis is made even more difficult than elsewhere by the par- 
ticular features of this geographical area: towns which developed earlier and 
faster than elsewhere and the great importance of the ecclesiastical patrimony. 
However, it appears that, in this region of written law, the judicial authority of 
the counts remained stronger than their military authority; at the end of the 
eleventh century, in fact, castles multiplied and largely escaped their control. 
Local potentates imposed their law on the inhabitants of northern Italy just as 
much as in Latium or Sabina. 17 

The weakening of comital power and the strengthening of the castellans, 
already visible in some of the last regions discussed above, becomes increasingly 
apparent in a second group, particularly represented in France. In several areas, 
however, the power of the count was not wholly destroyed. This was the 
case, for different reasons, in Anjou, in Poitou and in Champagne (where, 
in contrast, comital power was only beginning to be imposed). There, we 
can speak of ‘power shared’, between the prince and his emancipated former 
agents, even with usurpers pure and simple. By no means all the castles which 
proliferated throughout the eleventh century, especially between 1020 and 
1060, were controlled by the prince. In Charente, for example, it has been 
estimated that as many as two-thirds of them were ‘private’ constructions, 
usually built on the initiative of members of the princely clientele. 18 

The regions of the lie de France, the Paris Basin and even Picardy are a 
special case. For a variety of reasons - the chief being the proximity of the 
king - we do not see the formation of castellanies properly speaking. Yet the 
fragmentation of power was considerable. It took the form of a multitude 
of counties of small size which, by and large, can be regarded as castellanies 
without the name. These counts with a single county to a considerable extent 
assumed power; they levied taxes, summoned and led the milites. The kings 
of France themselves hardly behaved differently, but they benefited from the 
immense moral and religious advantage of being crowned and recognised as, at 
the very least, primus inter pares-, this, especially in the twelfth century, assisted 
their gradual recovery of the kingdom, beginning with the regions abutting 
on their own estates. 19 A third group consists of those regions where we can 
speak of ‘power transferred’, the public authority having escaped the count and 

(1994); Glick (1995); Laliena Corbera (1996); Barton (1997); Laliena Corbera and Utrilla Utrilla 
(1998); Larrea (1998). 

17 Toubert (1973), pp. i254ff; Keller (1984); Conti (1975); Gasparri (1992); Fumagalli (1976); see also 
Martin (1993), pp. 743ffand (1994); Settia (1984), pp. 287ff; Racine (1997); Giordanengo (1998). 

18 Beech (1964); Garaud (1967); Sanfafon (1967); Guillot (1972) and (1980); Bur (1977); Zadora-Rio 
(1979); Bachrach (1984) and (1995); Debord (1984). 

19 Lemarignier (1965); Fossier (1968) and (1993); Chedeville (1973); Sassier (1980); Barthelemy (1984) 
and (1993a). 

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passed to the level of his agents, viscounts or vicars, and even castellans who 
had almost completely usurped the public powers, military and judicial. 

The Maconnais, so well studied by Georges Duby, constitutes for this group 
an ‘extreme case’, which has too readily been generalised to the whole of France, 
even the whole west. Here, prior to 1030, all judicial matters had escaped the 
count and been devolved to the castellans. The collapse of comital power is 
equally clear on the military plane, where the vicars and castellan families had 
assumed, to their own benefit, the right of summoning men and leading them 
on expeditions. 20 

Though the disappearance of comital power was not always taken so far, a 
similar situation developed in most central and southern regions of France: per- 
haps even earlier in Berry, where it started at the very beginning of the eleventh 
century, 21 a little later in Forez, Auvergne and the Bourbonnais, even later in 
Lorraine, land of the empire, where, in 1050, numerous comital fortresses still 
survived, and where the term castellan had a functional rather than a social 
meaning. 22 

It was, in fact, in southern France that the central power had earliest and 
most completely surrendered its public prerogatives, as numerous recent re- 
gional studies have shown. These regions certainly retained features peculiar 
to them (an almost total absence of ‘advocacy’, persistence of landed immu- 
nities, strength of written law, etc.), but it is here that, contrary to what was 
thought over thirty years ago, the phenomenon of the castellan manifested 
itself most visibly and soonest. At a very early date, judicial power passed from 
the counts to the castellans (in the countryside) and the bailes (in the towns). 
By the beginning of our period, military power was similarly privatised; it had 
passed into the hands of the lords, surrounded by their squadrons of milites 
who were then no more than mounted soldiers, warriors on horseback, who 
were also called caballarii or cabalers. We are still a long way from a knightly 
class. 23 

Despite the significant differences which existed from one part of Europe 
to another, we can still speak of a crisis of the castellans, generalised to the 
extent that the majority of the features characterising what we may call ‘the 

20 Duby (1946), (1953), (1972) and (1976); but see also Bois (1988). 

21 Devailly (1973), pp. 187-96. 

22 Fournier (1951) and (1962), pp. 389ff; Richard (1954) and (i960); Parisse (1982); Lauranson-Rosaz 
(1987) and (1990). 

23 Lewis (1965), pp. 354ff; Magnou-Nortier (1974); Poly (1976); Mussot-Goulard (1982); see, however, 
on the debate over ‘mutationnisme’, Weinberger (1982); Bois (1988); Barth6l6my (1992b), (1993a) 
and (1993b); Bisson (1994) and (1995); Martindale (1997); Beech (1998); Flori (1998a); Poly (1998); 
Salrach (1998). 

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seigneurial age’ eventually spread even to regions which had long maintained a 
strong central power, in fact or in name. But the almost general degradation of 
the public central authority should not be seen as ‘anarchy’, as was till recently 
so often the case. There is here an unfortunate confusion. Never, in fact, had 
men felt weigh on them an authority so immediate and permanent as in the ‘age 
of the seigneurs’. Locally, power was not weakened but strengthened, by being 
concentrated in the same hands, those of the potentate, the lord ( dominus ). 
Nor should we necessarily assume that this fragmentation of power was in itself 
a bad thing. This idea has tended to attract minds formed by two centuries 
of a Jacobin tradition in France and an uneasy statist nationalism in most 
European countries, further strengthened by the formidable fascination which 
Marxism has for over seventy years held for western intellectuals: it was believed 
that good could only emerge in a society ruled by a strong central power, any 
dilution of which must be bad. Degradation, retreat, decline: we no longer see 
it this way. 

We should not, of course, go to the opposite extreme, and invest the 
seigneurial age with imaginary virtues. Let us rather say that, in the circum- 
stances of the time, this politico-social system, corrected by the feudalism which 
often accompanied it, functioned no worse than any other. Perhaps this new 
system was the only one which could actually have functioned, adapted as it 
was to the realities of the age. We should not forget that it was a matter not 
only of the degradation of a political system, but of the emergence of a new 
system of government. The devolution to comital agents, then to castellans, 
of rights of armed coercion and justice did not simply mark an evolution. It 
was a profound revolution, with major historical consequences. It helped to 
abolish all real difference between the hitherto opposed categories of the free 
and the unfree, and to divide lay society into two main groups: on the one 
hand, those who were subject to the ban, the result of the castellan’s power - 
the undifferentiated mass of people consisting mainly of peasants, but also, 
descended from them, artisans, workers and merchants; on the other, those 
who exercised the ban, who had received or usurped the power to judge, to 
command, to carry out decisions - the lay aristocracy who would become the 

Between these two categories, descended from the former but rubbing shoul- 
ders with, and aspiring to join, the latter, we should place the milites. We even 
need to specify the ‘ordinary’ milites, so great, it must be emphasised, is the 
ambiguity of the word, especially in the singular. An ‘ordinary’ miles was not 
one of those noble personages solemnly entering the militia, the exercise of the 
public function whose vocabulary, at least, persisted throughout the eleventh 
century. Such a noble, when entering office, when ‘made a miles’ (miles factus ), 
publicly received the sword, sign of his public authority, military and judicial. 

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Knightly society 


One encounters many such cases in the eleventh century, or even later. 24 They 
directly represented the public power, the ancient militia, and were usually 
princes at the beginning of the eleventh century, sometimes castellans at the 
end, precisely when this public function had passed from the princes to the 

The castellans commanded the ordinary milites, who obeyed their orders. 
Descended for the most part from the upper ranks of the peasantry, these 
milites were the armed fists of the prince or castellan. It was through them that 
the lords ruled, protected, contained and oppressed the masses. It was by their 
lances, javelins and swords that they imposed the order of the domini — or their 
disorder. The inevitable result was that they escaped constraints and tried to 
merge into the aristocratic group by whom they were employed. At the time 
when this volume begins, 1025-30, they had barely embarked on this process 
and remained subordinate. By the end, that is the end of the twelfth century, 
they had largely succeeded, at least in certain regions of western Europe. Their 
omnipresence was so marked, throughout the whole of this period, that the 
expression ‘knightly society’ is often used to mean the society of the eleventh 
and twelfth centuries. 

Moreover, the militarisation of society continued apace throughout the 
eleventh century, with the beginnings of European expansion. For long 
squeezed and besieged, Christian Europe freed itself and expanded, pushing 
back its pagan adversaries in the east beyond the Danube plains and in Poland, 
and its Saracen enemies in Spain, where the Reconquista was stepped up. Milites 
from throughout the west played a part in this reconquest; Norman warriors, 
descendants of Tancred of Hauteville, carved out for themselves principalities 
at the point of their lance or sword, in Sicily or southern Italy; others sought 
fortune as mercenaries in the service of the basileus of Constantinople. In the 
zones of conquest, such as Muslim Spain {al-Andalus) , the combination of 
castles and knights proved effective. The same was true throughout the west, 
where this combination became the emblem of power in both its immobile 
(the castle) and its mobile (the knight) forms. 

So while the political reality of the period took the multiple form of prin- 
cipalities themselves divided into castellanies, the idea of unity survived in the 
west. People continued to dream of an empire which Otto resuscitated, and 
the figure of Charlemagne obsessed the magnates. Christianity, in its armed 
contacts with the Saracens, became aware of its existence and aspired to unity. 
The struggle between the papacy and the empire, which assumed such promi- 
nence in the second half of the eleventh century, had many facets. One can- 
not be denied: the battle was in part to decide who would rule the united 

24 Van Winter (1976); Flori (1979a); Leyser (1984); but see, however, Barthdemy (1992b). 

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i 5 8 


Christendom of which people dreamed. The crusade, too, can be related to 
this important question. 

In all these acts and in all these dreams, the warriors played a preponderant 
role, alike in Spain and the Holy Land, in England and in Sicily. They were 
the artisans both of the European expansion which was beginning and of the 
politico-social system which was being imposed within its frontiers. Their role 
could only increase. The rise of the knight had begun. 


This society included all who, at different levels, participated in the ban within 
the framework of the political seigneurie, of which the castle constituted both 
the symbol and the base. As has already been said, its defensive function, though 
real, was not of prime importance. It was above all the place where resided the 
lord who judged, convoked and collected rents and taxes, assisted in all these 
functions by his milites. 

The upkeep of these castles and the arming of their garrisons in part justified 
the taxes levied by the lord on those whom he ‘protected’. Thus we see the 
appearance, and slow generalisation, during the course of the eleventh and 
twelfth centuries, of certain ‘customs’ which gave rise to dues. Those called 
‘aids’ by historians were intended to procure for the warriors their means of 
subsistence, and in the twelfth century took the form of financial contributions 
in certain circumstances: when the lord married his daughter, knighted his 
son, departed for the Holy Land or had to pay a ransom for his freedom. The 
warriors’ equipment was expensive and, to meet its cost, the lord levied on the 
inhabitants of his seigneurie the arbitrary tallage ( taille ), heavier in some places 
than others; the vocabulary which describes it ( exactio , consuetudo, tonsio, etc.) 
is evidence enough that it was not always well received. It was codified during 
the course of the twelfth century, and gradually transformed into an annual 
‘tax’, more acceptable because predictable. 

The lord also received dues in labour, again justified by the need to maintain 
the defences: the corvees. They were similarly unpopular, less because of their 
weight, which was in practice minimal, than their timing, which was often 
unfortunate, for example coinciding with the grain or wine harvests, which 
were labour intensive. 

Lastly, the lord used his authority to levy on the villages he dominated 
several taxes of an economic nature, on markets, routes (bridges and roads) 
and on the use of several instruments of production of which he abrogated the 
monopoly; oven, mill and press. These various taxes expressed the extension 
of seigneurial power to all, even the free, who lived under his tutelage. The 
men of war, who benefited from these taxes, escaped the customs which they 

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Knightly society 


helped to levy. This economic exploitation of the men of the seigneurie, free 
or unfree, inevitably increased the social fissure created between the men of 
arms and the rural masses from which they came. 

The society of warriors was governed by ties of dependence whose origins were 
in the distant past; Charlemagne himself developed them in an attempt to 
channel to his own benefit, by the generalisation of the oath, the power of 
the tie of vassalage which, by the Frankish period, created around powerful 
men clienteles ( familia ) of every type. The militarisation of society in the tenth 
and eleventh centuries produced a strengthening of the links binding a lord 
(1 dominus , senior) to his vassal, his ‘man’, even his ‘homme de main ( vassus , 
homo, miles). 

The contract which joined these two free men, one of whom entered into 
honourable dependence on the other, provided for reciprocal responsibilities 
and duties which historians of feudalism have frequently described and made 
well known: 25 the lord ought to provide his men with their subsistence (in 
accord with his rank), judicial assistance and military protection in case of 
threats. In return, the vassal owed his lord respect and in particular, especially 
during the period considered here, armed service ( servitium ), financial and 
military aid ( auxilium ) which was a form of ‘class solidarity’, and the benefit of 
his advice ( consilium ) when an important decision had to be taken. The benefice 
(1 beneficium ) granted to the vassal by the lord can be seen as a gift calling for 
a counter-gift. The benefice increasingly took the form of a hereditary grant 
of land (fief), which appeared as the salary for the services of the vassal. It is 
precisely this link, well established at this period, between the grant of the fief 
and the entry into vassalage which constituted the essential feature of what is 
called ‘feudalism’. 

Provided with an income, the vassal could satisfy his material needs: food 
and arms. He could render to his lord the duties to which he was committed by 
oath; after 1050, military service was the chief of these. It took various forms, 
garrison in the castles ( milites castri), participation in the comital army ( ost ) 
assembled for the great (and rare) pitched battles ( proelium , bataille champel) 
or, more often, the razzia or cavalcade ( chevauchee ), limited in time to a few 
days. At the end of forty days or two months, the vassal could withdraw, or 
at least be compensated for his service, which then took on a more mercenary 
than feudal aspect. This explains the development, by the first quarter of the 
twelfth century and in rare cases in the eleventh century (for example the 

25 Lemarignier (1945); Ganshof (1957); Fawtier and Lot (1957); Guerreau (1980); Bloch (1968), pp. 
309ff; Boutruche (1968-70), 11, pp. i7off; Fourquin (1970); Poly and Bournazel (1980), pp. 105-54; 
Structures feodales (1980). 

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Conquest of England), of the use of mercenary armies, professionals of war 
who were easier to assemble, control and maintain, at this period at least, and 
which constituted the remote origins of the professional armies of today. 26 

Contrary to the view developed in the magnificent synthesis of that great 
historian of feudal society Marc Bloch, 17 the classic ‘feudalism’, which he be- 
lieved to have first emerged in the regions situated in north-west France and 
Belgium, between the Loire and the Rhine, probably never existed, except in 
the Norman model and in the regions where the Norman conquerors imposed 
it from the top: England, Sicily and the Holy Land. There, feudalism in its 
entirety is revealed in the texts: the prince held the land through the inter- 
mediary of the companions to whom he had assigned it, whilst at the lower 
level the knights had in their turn received ‘knights’ fees’, counterparts of the 
Norman fiefs de haubert, which supplied their needs and enabled them to per- 
form armed military service. In these regions, we see more clearly and more 
completely than elsewhere all the forms of feudalism and its rites: homage ‘by 
the hands’ ( immixtio manuum), the oath, investiture with the fief symbolised 
by the handing over of material objects, for example a clod of earth or banner, 
rites described in detail in the classic works on feudalism. 

In contrast, in other parts of the alleged cradle of feudalism, feudal practices 
are both difficult to find and generally later than in the zones which used to be 
seen as resistant, in particular in the Mediterranean region, which has emerged 
from obscurity since the 1970s thanks to several fine studies. 28 It is there, it 
seems, that we first see the transformation into a hereditary grant involving 
services of what was hitherto only an act of goodwill, a gift calling for a counter- 
gift. The southern fief was, in essence, simply a method of payment in kind, 
by means of the grant of an asset in origin public. It was, it has been said, 
‘a stipendium become hereditary’. 29 Southern feudalism was certainly neither 
‘complete’ nor perfect (where was this the case?). The ties were rather loose, the 
fealty sworn was relatively unimportant, homage by the hands was repugnant 
to most of the grandees, who regarded it as an excessive act of humiliation, and 
rarely practised it before the end of the eleventh century. But it was already a 
highly militarised and warlike seigneurial society. 

It was, in fact, in central France that feudalism was most precocious and 
spread most rapidly. From Aquitaine to Burgundy, including the central regions 
of Berry and Auvergne, feudalism was already firmly established by the start of 

16 Boussard (1945-6) and (1968): Chibnall (1977); Prestwich (1981); Contamine (1980), pp. 138-42; 
Brown, S. D. B. (1989); Ayton and Price (1995). 

27 Bloch (1968), pp. 209-32. 

28 See note 24; also Bonnassie (1969), pp. 529-61 and (1980); Les structures sociales (1969); Aurell I 
Cardona (1985); Bourin-Derruau (1988); Structures feodales (1980). 

29 Poly and Bournazel (1980), p. 127. 

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Knightly society 161 

our period. The early disappearance in these very regions of the public power 
and comital authority probably contributed to the strengthening of the vassalic 
ties binding together the members of the warrior aristocracy, ties intended to 
provide a structure, a framework limiting the risks of conflict. It was not by 
chance that the institutions of peace, also intended to restrict the violence of 
the warriors, were born in these same regions. 

Other regions, however, long resisted. This was particularly true of the lands 
of the empire, where the tradition of a central power persisted up to the end of 
the twelfth century, in the realm of ideas more than in reality. This tradition 
maintained a strict hierarchy within aristocratic society. The military service 
of free men also survived, without the need for grants of tenures to assure it. 
The fief, properly speaking, did not yet exist. There was strict hierarchy, but 
not of a feudal nature, and the ritual of homage, though very early, did not 
have the same significance as in France. Here, ministers and knights appeared as 
clearly subservient warriors, simple executants of power. Knighthood remained 
subordinate, and was in no sense a springboard for accession to the aristocracy 
or the nobility. It was not until the end of our period, or even later, during the 
thirteenth century, that the feudal and knightly model penetrated the empire 
and there assumed aspects of an ideological veneer . 30 

Over and above the variations and chronological differences, one conclusion 
is clear: feudalism progressed throughout the eleventh and twelfth centuries. 
In France, in particular, it established a hierarchy of people which soon, in the 
second half of the twelfth century, extended to the land itself. The renascent 
monarchy of this period made no attempt to destroy a system which had 
accompanied the decline of the central power. On the contrary, it drew strength 
from it, taking advantage of the formation, at least on the plane of ideas, of a 
feudal hierarchy which had the king at its apex, of a society conceived as one 
great familia of which the king was the senior and the kingdom a connected 
series of feudal tenures . 31 

The aristocratic society of the eleventh and twelfth centuries was seigneurial, 
because it developed within the framework of the castellan lordships; it can be 
called feudal, because it was structured by feudo-vassalic ties which established 
its rules and its rites, even though the fief was not general, and though allods, 
hereditary lands held of no lord, survived in such numbers that it has justifiably 
been argued that they constituted not the exception but the rule ; 32 it was 
knightly, because it was above all warlike and military, and because the milites 

30 Dubled (i960); Johrendt (1971) and (1976); Dollinger (1976); Fleckenstein (1978); Arnold (1985); 
Jackson (1994), pp. 34-87; Bournazel and Poly (1998). 

31 Poly and Bournazel (1980), pp. 287-310; see, however, Barthelemy (1986); Zimmermann (1986). 

32 Verriest (1946), p. 25; Fossier (1982), pp. 957-8; Reynolds (1994). 

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of the early eleventh century were gradually transformed into knights, who 
aspired to merge into the aristocracy they served, and form with them one 
socio-juridical class, the nobility. 

The rise of the knight, like the other changes described above, was not 
uniform, but it was general and characteristic of this period in western Europe, 
to the point where the knight appears wholly to incarnate it. What, then, were 
the milites in the aristocratic society of the first third of the eleventh century, 
and what had they become by the end of the twelfth century? 

Their roots lay in the peasantry, sometimes even in servitude. Their march 
to nobility was long, especially in the geographical regions where the central 
power survived and where the hierarchy remained clear, at least in people’s 
minds. This was particularly the case in the Germanic empire, where the 
nobility remained royal, even imperial. It was a territorial nobility and also, 
if the emperor wished, a nobility of service. It was he who decided to bring 
into the nobility such and such a person from among those who performed 
on his behalf services of public function. The holders of castles did not enter 
the nobility. Nor, very definitely, did the knights {Ritter), who were and who 
remained merely subordinate warriors, even though the prestige of western 
knighthood, imported from France, persuaded the emperor Frederick, at the 
end of the twelfth century, to conform ceremonially to the rites of dubbing. 33 

In adjacent regions, for example Lorraine, the aristocratic elite did not mix 
with the milites , and shunned all knightly titles. In Champagne, the nobility 
was based on blood, on lineage, and remained closed to knights of humble 
birth throughout the eleventh and twelfth centuries. 34 Here, the word milites 
lacked any social significance; it was a functional term. 

Was it any different in the regions further to the west? In the case of Spain, 
the answer has to be yes, but with a distinctly subordinate aspect. There, two 
ranks of nobility were distinguished, that of the comites, the court nobility, 
and, below them, that of the infanzones, a landed nobility serving the king. 
The simple caballero, ‘the mounted fighting man, sometimes simply an armed 
peasant ( caballeria villana from 1050), had no claim to join them’. 35 

So it may have been in the southern regions of France that the knights 
earliest draw near to, sometimes even merged with, the lower ranks of the 
aristocracy; at least this is argued by P. Bonnassie for Catalonia and J.-P. Poly 
for Provence, who accept, as did G. Duby some time ago for the Maconnais, the 

33 Van Winter (1962); Genicot (1965) and (1968); Leyser (1968); Reuter (1971) and (1979); Stormer 
(1973); Fleckenstein (1974) and (1978); Arnold (1985), pp. 7off; Jackson (1994), pp. 34ff; for the 
debate concerning the social origins of knights, see Barthel6my (1992a), (1992b), (1993a), and (1993b) 
and Flori (1995a) and (1998a). 

34 Parisse (1976), pp. 245, 250, 266; Bur (19 77), pp. 419-20. 

35 Fossier (1982), p. 979; Linehan (1993); Rucquoi (1993); Astarita (1999). 

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Knightly society 


early identification of miles and nobilis, and entry into the nobility by dubbing 
by the eleventh century. 36 This thesis, strongly influenced by Marc Bloch, has 
not found universal acceptance. 37 There is too much evidence to show that, 
even in these regions, the adoption of the title ‘knight’ by a true aristocrat might 
have little social significance. The nobility was defined above all by birth. It 
was a matter of blood, of parentage; one was born noble, and the Carolingian 
ancestry of the medieval nobility is hardly in doubt. True, the profession of 
arms was principally that of the nobles, but it did not automatically follow 
that, conversely, knighthood conferred nobility, at least in the period under 
discussion here. At the beginning of this period, all lay nobles in good health 
were knights, that is to say they fought on horseback at the head of troops of 
milites under their command. But these knights who followed them were not 
noble. 38 

In the eleventh century, in the majority of cases, the term milites applied 
to the armed servants of the lords, just as the word famuli similarly applied to 
the domestic servants and ministers of the churches. 39 It was during the course 
of the twelfth century that occurred the social and still more the ideological 
elevation of the knights, at the time when, within the cavalry, the knights were 
distinguished from the mounted sergeants and when knighthood became in 
effect, by the end of the century, the monopoly of the aristocracy. The history 
of our period is that of the successful promotion of the knight, at least in 
France, at the very end of the twelfth century. Knights and nobles came closer 
to the point where they sometimes merged. This promotion had causes which 
were more ideological than social, to which we will return. 

By the eleventh century, the milites were attracting the attention of all existing 
institutions, in particular that of the church. There were two reasons for the 
latter’s interest; moral, since these warriors disturbed the peace of Christendom; 
socio-economic, since the church possessed property (ecclesiastical lordships, 
bishoprics, abbeys) which was affected by political and social developments. 
The church was involved; it needed above all to defend itself. This is probably 
the principal reason for the earliest assemblies of peace, which have, however, 
given rise to differing interpretations. Assemblies of peace are not now seen 
as a last stand taken by the church to eliminate the violence of milites from a 
society which lacked law and justice and which was also terrorised, with the 
approach of the year 1000, by fear of the end of the world. ‘Feudal anarchy 
should not be exaggerated; expecting the end of the world was a permanent 
fact in the middle ages and it was not particularly intensified near the year 

,6 Duby (1953), pp. 200, 316, 322 and (1972); Bonnassie (1976), pp. 808, 875; Poly (1976). 

37 Tabacco (1980). 

38 Hunt (1981). Fossier (1982), pp. Flori (1986a), pp. 26-37. 

39 B.inheierriy (1990), p. 131. 

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1000. The alleged ‘terrors of the year 1000’ are largely mythical products of the 
imagination of historians writing in the nineteenth century. 

Several historians, on the other hand, have underlined the popular character 
of the peace assemblies. But this need not mean that they were anti-feudal or 
revolutionary, still less that they were precursors of the communal movement. 
In fact, the primary purpose of these assemblies was to assure the protection of 
ecclesiastical possessions which were threatened by milites acting on behalf of 
their lords or for themselves, and threatened still more by legal challenges made 
by lay lords against ecclesiastical lordships. The peace assemblies were therefore 
a means whereby the church put moral pressure on milites for the protection of 
its own personnel and property. Just as its advocates, the defenders of churches 
or milites ecclesiae, were responsible for armed defence of the material interests 
of ecclesiastical lordships, so too the institutions of peace came into being 
principally to protect the same, but to do so by means of moral and religious 
pressure and by the taking of oaths in the awesome presence of the relics of 
saints . 40 

The appearance of peace assemblies is a sign of the weakening of the ability 
of central power to protect churches, and a sign too of the growing interpen- 
etration of the public and ecclesiastical spheres. The maintenance of public 
order was incumbent on governments, that is, in the Carolingian tradition, on 
kings. This mission had, of course, been devolved to the princes as part of the 
formation of the great territorial principalities, and had passed down to the level 
of the castellans since it was in them that the powers of justice and armed co- 
ercion were concentrated. It was clearly in the regions where the central power 
had disappeared earliest that there would first appear the greatest risk of things 
going awry; this was especially so, as we have seen, in central and southern 
France, where the warriors easily became brigands and where the local poten- 
tates engaged in pillage and raids to the detriment of their neighbours. The 
insecurity principally affected the mass of the peasantry, but also all who were 
unable to defend themselves because they were unarmed ( inermes ): women, 
children and ecclesiastics. Nor did the property of the church escape. To strug- 
gle against encroachments by lay lords on ecclesiastical lordships the church 
turned to the miraculous powers of the saints and brandished the weapons of 
excommunication against those who attempted to despoil her, even including 
those who were meant, as vassals or advocates, to give her protection. 

For all these reasons, the church attempted to promote peace. This was not 
a new phenomenon; the bishops had shown their concern in the Carolingian 
period, and their influence can be detected in imperial decisions promulgated 
in the capitularies, and in the ‘mirrors of princes’, writings intended to remind 

40 Barthdemy (1999); Gougenheim (1999); Flori (2001). 

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Knightly society 165 

kings, who governed the world by the will of God, of their duties. 41 It was now 
necessary to attempt to win the support of the high aristocracy in containing 
the brigandage of the castellans and warriors. This was the aim of the councils 
of peace held from 975 (Le Puy), which proliferated in every region of central 
and southern France throughout the eleventh century and beyond, eventually 
spreading to other regions, and somewhat changing their character. 42 The 
public authority being unable to impose order, it was necessary to try to win 
from the grandees, but also from the castellans and warrior chiefs ( principles 
militiae), the moral engagement, sworn on the relics of saints, to renounce 
certain types of pillage and fighting: not to attack the inermes, not to capture 
for ransom noblewomen or ecclesiastics without the protection of a military 
escort, or even a caballarius if he, too, was unarmed; not to destroy or burn 
houses, at least when they did not contain an enemy warrior, as was spelt out 
by the text of a council of peace held at Verdun-sur-le-Doubs in 1016 or 1021. 43 

So the bishops and abbots, in particular of the Cluniac order, tried to act as 
substitutes for the enfeebled princes in order to protect all those who could not 
defend themselves. Their weapons were spiritual, but not negligible; the fact 
that, in the assemblies of peace, the warriors were requested to swear a solemn 
oath on the relics of the saints, held in high regard at the period, implied the 
responsibility of those who swore to the redoubtable heavenly powers. The 
church punished violations by excommunication, as was the case, for example, 
at the council of Limoges in 1031. 

It was a question not of outlawing war, even private war between Christian 
princes or castellans, but rather of trying to confine its terrible consequences 
to the warriors themselves, of protecting in some degree the inermes and, in 
particular, ecclesiastics. All the same, the limitation of the violence of war 
that the church sought to introduce into the very world of turbulence, that 
of the milites, led inevitably to the extension of these prescriptions; in 1054, 
at the council of Narbonne, the assembled bishops declared that ‘he who kills 
a Christian sheds without any doubt the blood of Christ’. 44 They posed the 
premises from which Urban II drew the logical conclusions when, in 1095 at 
Clermont, he preached the crusade, at the end of a council which was essentially 
a council of peace: war, yes, but directed against the infidel, outside, no longer 
inside, Christendom, for the church and not against it. 

41 Bonnaud-Delamare (1939); La Paix (1962); Flori (1983), pp. 65-83; Werner (1989); Landes (1991); 
Goetz (1992); Magnou-Nortier (1992). 

42 Bonnaud-Delamare (1951); Topfer (1957) and (1992); Hoffmann (1964); Duby (1966); Cowdrey 
(1970); Callahan (1977); Magnou-Nortier (1979); Head and Landes (1992); Barthelemy (1999). 

43 ‘Mansiones non incendam, nec destruam, nisi inimicum meum caballarium cum armis intus inven- 
ero . . . Caballarium ad carrucam non assaliam neque occidam’, quoted in Flori (1983), pp. 147-8. 
Barthelemy (1999), pp. 428ff. 

44 ‘Quia qui christianum occidit, sine dubio christi sanguinem fundit’, Mansi 19, col. 827. 

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1 66 


The Truce of God, which spread soon after the Peace of God in neighbouring 
regions, tried to go one step further; no longer only to shield people from war, so 
attempting to reserve it to warriors, but now to protect them, to limit violence 
by declaring it inadmissible during certain periods, to make certain key times 
sacred, to make them taboo for primarily liturgical reasons: first Sunday, so that 
people could properly observe the day of rest which the church had long ago 
transferred from the seventh day of the week (Saturday or the Sabbath) to the 
first, and during which all professional activity should cease, that of the peasants 
and that of the warriors. This obligation of abstinence from war appeared by 
1027 at the council of Toulouges (=Elne), near Perpignan. Not long after, in 
1033, the council ofVich (Catalonia) tried to extend the length of this restraint 
to three days, from Thursday night to Monday morning. The idea then spread 
widely throughout the southern regions. In 1042, at the council of Saint-Gilles- 
du-Gard, Peace of God and Truce of God came together, forbidding the milites, 
great and small ( majores et minores), from taking up arms during these periods. 
In 1054, the council of Narbonne extended the truce to a number of religious 
festivals. It then covered 285 days in the year, allowing legal warfare only eighty 
scattered days. Violations were liable to excommunication and a fine of 40 
sous . 45 

But these were merely pious hopes; the very large number of councils and 
assemblies of peace simply testifies to the innumerable violations of the peace. 
The ecclesiastical sanctions proved insufficient, and the oath was not always 
kept, or even sworn. Penal sanctions were added, which the ‘public authorities’ 
engaged to ensure were respected whenever they were able to do so, in the 
second half of the eleventh century in particular. But it was precisely their 
weakness which had led the church to intervene directly; in the absence of a 
princely power sufficiently compelling, there was sometimes in some regions 
no other way of limiting the violence of the local warlike potentates than to 
appeal to their own will to abstain, to an abstinence comparable to a true 
penitence. The multiplying of councils of peace leads one to ask whether their 
purpose was to affirm a largely unrealistic programme of general, universal 
peace based on moral and religious ideals. Perhaps the councils were more a 
sacralised means of regulating local conflicts and reconciling those engaged in 
disputes. But even in this attenuated role the institutions of peace contributed 
to the shaping of mentalities which were later to become chivalric. 

Once, perhaps (though it is open to doubt), the church tried to create a sort 
of popular militia responsible for ensuring peace by force of arms. In 1031, at 
Bourges, Archbishop Aimo made all the men (no longer only the princes and 
seigneurs) swear to regard as enemies those who violated the peace, to seize 

45 Bisson (1977); Flori (1983), pp. 150-2; Barth6l6my (1999), pp. 499ff. 

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Knightly society 167 

their possessions, to march against them, with arms. Here was a paradox in- 
deed: the church, from its own mouth, calling to arms the unarmed ( inermes ) 
to use violence against the milites, habitual instigators of violence. It was a 
failure; the soldiers of the violator, the lord of Deols, cut to pieces the popular 
troops. Knights could not be produced at will. To make war, it was necessary 
to have recourse to warriors. The sacralisation of knighthood, for example 
by the ceremony of dubbing, met the need of the church to harness knight- 
hood to serve its own needs. In 1031 such a sacralisation was not yet possible, 
but it developed, under reforming popes, in the second half of the eleventh 
century. 4 * 5 

The institutions of peace were not confined to the south. Their ideology 
spread widely throughout Europe, as far as Normandy, Flanders, even the 
empire, though rather later. But in areas where the public power had not been 
entirely relinquished by the princes, these institutions were for the latter an 
occasion to affirm their authority. The Peace of God was here turned into 
the peace of the prince. 47 Peace became once again a lay prerogative, a duty 
incumbent on the public power. 

This was already the opinion of Adalbero of Laon and of Gerald of Cambrai 
by 1030; for these bishops in the Carolingian tradition, the mission to establish 
and maintain peace should rest not on the church but on kings. This is why 
Gerald resisted the bishops of Beauvais and Soissons who wanted to introduce 
into these northern regions the southern institutions recently sworn at Verdun- 
sur-le-Doubs, and compel all men, on oath, to preserve peace and justice. 48 
By another route, in these northern regions, the princes and also the bishops, 
several of whom already possessed comital rights and played an important 
temporal role, could dispense with the Peace of God which the abbots of Cluny 
sought to promote, and which the bishops of the north hardly appreciated by 
reason of the exemption they preached, which limited their rights over the 

The ecclesiastical establishments, principally the bishops and the great 
monasteries, were in any case not without ways of defending themselves. They 
were veritable ecclesiastical lordships, sometimes principalities, capable of sup- 
porting armed troops, milites ecclesiae, in the empire, but also elsewhere, in 
France, where the bishops shared with the counts the lordship of the cities. 49 

46 Duby (1978), pp. 222-35 (pp. 181-91 of English translation); Flori (1983), pp. 137-55; Paul (1986), 
pp. 564-74; Head and Landes (1992), pp. 219-38; Ifmlielemy (1999), pp. 4ioff rightly corrects the 
interpretation of G. Duby which I did once accept. 

47 Bonnaud-Delamare (1957) pp. i47ff; De Botiard (1959); Graboi's (1966); Magnou-Nortier (1974); 
Genicot (1975), pp. 5 2 If. 

48 Bonnaud-Delamare (1955-6); Duby (1978), pp. 35-61 (pp. 21-43 of English translation). 

49 Guyotjeannin (1987); Reuter (1992); for nuances see Barthel6my (1999), pp. 439IT. 

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To ensure their protection, the ecclesiastical establishments, at least in the 
north, developed the system of ‘advocacy’, that is, entrusting to a lay lord the 
responsibility - lucrative and much coveted - of representing them in judicial 
actions and war. Princes, but also lords of lesser importance, were here the ad- 
vocates ( advocati ) or defenders ( defensores ) of the ecclesiastical establishments 
whose banners they bore, which did not prevent them, on occasion, from 
treating them to more exactions than protection; the eleventh, and even more 
the twelfth, centuries resound with the constant complaints of churchmen and 
monks about the depradations of their advocates. 

The churches thus had close ties with the milites, sometimes simple warriors, 
sometimes more important lords, who thus entered into their vassalage. The 
church of Rome itself did not disdain to recruit milites ecclesiae, while more 
important lords bore the title of miles sancti Petri (the emperor himself, officially 
accredited defender of the church of Rome, was himself one such ‘knight of 
St Peter’). 

The recruitment by the churches of fighting vassals probably led to cere- 
monies comparable to those of seigneurial investitures. A few traces survive, 
from the eleventh century. One is a ritual of Cambrai which was once thought 
to have been intended for the dubbing of knights, but which in fact served 
for the investiture of a vassal of the church, which explains the presence of 
the handing over of the banner and various blessings with a strong ideological 
flavour, in origin royal . 50 It means that the world of the church and the world 
of the warriors were not separated into watertight compartments, and that all 
wars - and consequently all warriors - were not condemned by the church to 
‘outer darkness’. 

The eleventh century saw a veritable ideological promotion of the warriors 
fighting on behalf of the church, and principally of the church of Rome. At 
the same time, several technical innovations in relation to the two ‘pillars’ of 
the warrior society of this period - the castles and the knights - significantly 
changed methods of fighting, resulting in profound social and ideological 
changes which influenced the notion of knighthood. 


The castle and the knight were the symbols of contemporary power. Both were 
to experience major changes during our period which helped to transform 
aristocratic and warrior society. The castle was the residence of the agents 
of the public authority, now more or less autonomous as holders of local 
public power, but it was also the centre for the economic exploitation of the 

50 Ordo adArmandum ecclesiae defensorem vel aliurn militem, ed. Flori (1985a). 

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Knightly society 


men who lived around it: the castellany. Its strategic role was by no means 
negligible, but remained secondary. Its prime function was domination and 

The number of castles, it is now generally agreed, greatly increased during 
the eleventh century, necessitating the installation of garrisons ( milites castri ), 
which consisted to a considerable extent of paid fighting men, along with 
dependants of the castellans fulfilling their obligation of castle guard. These 
castles were for the most part very modest towers of wood protected by palisades 
or stakes, erected on natural mounds or mottes, or especially in the south of 
France, in fortified towns or villages. During the course of the eleventh century, 
many secondary fortresses of wood and earth were abandoned, or transformed 
into pure fortifications with an exclusively military purpose, while towers of 
stone (donjons) began to appear. Stone castles, visible symbols of seigneurial 
power, proliferated during the twelfth century, and became general during the 
second half of that century . 51 From then on, the castles of princes or lords were 
the focal points of the political, economic, military and later cultural activity of 
aristocratic society. The knightly vassals, when not on guard duty in the castle, 
usually lived in fortified farms, or houses in the villages or towns . 52 Others, 
however, served there permanently and formed the garrison of the castle and 
the escort of the castellan. They were specialised fighting men. 

The specialisation of tasks was, in fact, one of the consequences of the devel- 
opment of castles. A ‘court life’ began to be organised there, necessitating the 
construction and upkeep of buildings with a domestic or economic function. 
These aspects do not concern us here, and we therefore simply signal their 
presence. But specialisation also prevailed in the military sphere. The upkeep 
of the defensive walls needed masons and carpenters, craftsmen not warriors, 
and the attacks and sieges of fortresses led to the appearance of new specialists 
charged with sapping or dismantling the walls, and with constructing siege 
machines to facilitate assaults on the ramparts. On the strictly military plane, 
the role of archers and crossbowmen, in battles as well as sieges, increased 
in importance. These warriors, all footsoldiers ( pedites ), were indispensable to 
victory. We should not forget this, or allow ourselves to be blinded by the 
aristocratic sources of the period which hardly mention them but concentrate 
almost exclusively on the exploits of the elite troops, the cavalry. 

Within the cavalry, we also see a trend towards specialisation. At the begin- 
ning of our period, all mounted fighting men were lumped together under the 

51 Fixot (1969) and (1975); Fino (1977); Le Maho (1977); Fournier (1978); De Boiiard (1979); Structures 
feodales (1980); Debord (1982); Bachrach (1983); Chatelain (1983); S. D. B. Brown (1989); Eales 
(1990); Charbonnier (1996); Debord (2000). 

52 Pesez and Piponnier (1972); Genicot (1976); Chapelot and Fossier (1980); La Maison forte (1986); 
Debord (1987); Brand’honneur (2001). 

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same term: equites. At the end, we are just able to distinguish the elite knights 
from the less heavily armed mounted men and from sergeants on horseback 
and the squires. 53 

At the same time, and for the same reasons, the use of mercenaries developed, 
making it possible to form armies of specialists in war more efficient and 
manageable than the contingents of feudal service ( ost ). The resumption of 
political power by the princes during the course of the twelfth century was 
accompanied by the growth of these mercenary armies, particularly in the 
Plantagenet domains, in the second half of the century. The repurchase of 
the service of host ( scutagium ), already known by 1100, became general after 
1150, and allowed the recruitment of armies of knights, true professionals in 
‘aristocratic’ knightly warfare. 54 

The attention of all contemporary chroniclers was in practice, from the 
mid-eleventh century, concentrated on the knights and their arms. They alone 
aroused their interest, as if the knights of this period, like the tank in 1917-18, or 
aircraft in 1940-45, had come to dominate warfare. There are two concomitant 
explanations for this, one technological, the other social and ideological. 

The technological revolution is well known; 55 the appearance and then the 
diffusion of the stirrup in Europe, from the seventh century, led to the creation 
of a heavy cavalry by the Carolingian period. According to many historians, 
the use of the stirrup and the saddle revolutionised the war technique of the 
horseman, by giving him a better seat and greater stability in battle. Thus was 
born the true cavalry, now using the lance and the sword, no longer the javelin 
or pike. 

The cavalry confrontation, the famous charge followed by melee so often 
described in medieval epics, is then the consequence of these technical inno- 
vations. At the same time, as a defence against the terrible lance, various forms 
of protection were developed: coats of mail, byrnies, hauberks, shields, etc. 
As a result, the new knights needed stronger horses (because of the increased 
weight of the armed rider), better trained for close combat, clashes and noise. 
The very high cost of horses and arms then operated to restrict the number 
of these elite fighters to a tiny minority of the privileged, who had access to 
ample resources and sufficient leisure to devote themselves wholly to military 
activities. Thus was born the knightly class which would dominate warfare, 
leading to ‘feudal’ society, even to nobility. 56 

53 Contamine (1980), pp. 159-69, 192-207. 

54 Boussard (1945-6) and (1968); Schlight (1968); Duby (1973b), pp. 461-71, 473-82; Chibnall (1977), 

pp. 15-23; Brown, S. D. B. (1989), pp. 20-38; Coss (1993), pp. 100-34; Gillingham (1994a); Flori 


55 White (1969), pp. 1-53; Beeler (1971); Contamine (1980), pp. 321-9; Devries (1992). 

56 White (1969), pp. 25ff; Verbruggen (1977), pp. 22ff. 

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Knightly society iyi 

This is an attractive thesis; it confirms the notion, accepted by many intellec- 
tuals, that social classes express the economy, itself dependent on technology. 
However, it is a thesis which needs to be corrected at a number of points. 

It will be noted that the diffusion of the stirrup and the saddle in Europe 
was in practice very much earlier than the emergence of knighthood, and, even 
more so, of a nobility resulting from it. It was, in fact, in the second half of the 
ninth century that these two innovations became general and it does not appear 
that they then revolutionised the techniques of war . 57 At the beginning of the 
eleventh century, and even later in certain regions, for example in Anglo-Saxon 
England, men continued to fight on foot or even on horseback, not without 
success, using the lance as a javelin, as the Bayeux Tapestry shows. 5S The use 
of the lance as a pike persisted for much longer. We must therefore avoid hasty 
generalisation and attempt to establish a more precise chronology. 

It is generally agreed that in the mid-twelfth century, the very moment when 
the concept of knighthood, so well reflected in the vernacular literature , 59 took 
shape in mens minds, the knights had adopted the technique of the couched 
lance that Lynn White Jr believed resulted from the appearance of the saddle 
and the stirrup. At this period, mounted combat was already codified and 
stereotyped; the cavalry drew up, facing each other, on the battlefield, at a 
good distance and in lines. At a signal from their leader, they placed their 
shields in front of their chests, lowered their lances, hitherto vertical, and held 
them firmly in a fixed, horizontal position, clasped tightly under the arm. 
They then spurred their horses, shouted their battle cry and rushed at their 
adversaries, who were doing the same. 

So battle commenced with a head-on collision, the purpose of which was 
to unseat the enemy by accurately controlling the direction of the horse so 
that the lance, pointed at him, but fixed, hit him head-on. Lance, rider and 
horse formed a solid block and the more massive and compact the squadrons 
{conrois, battalions, echelles), the more formidable was the cavalry charge. 

It is easy to understand the fascination of this impetuous, impressive charge, 
capable of scattering the enemy ranks, unseating the horsemen and putting 
the footsoldiers, as much despised as indispensable, to flight. But we still need 
to know at what date this new technique was adopted. That it appeared very 
early, before the start of our period, is now no longer believed; there is nothing 
to support this thesis. There have even been some recent attempts to locate 
its appearance much later, towards the middle of the twelfth century . 60 This 

57 Bachrach (1970) and (1988); Keen (1984), pp. 23-7; Bachrach; Davis (1989). 

58 Ross (1963); Brooks and Walker (1978); Cowdrey (1987); Flori (1988). 

59 Flori (1975), pp. 408-45; Paterson (1981); Bumke (1982); Ruiz-Domenec (1984a); Burgess (1994); 
Jackson (1994); Flori (1996). 

60 Butin (1965), pp. 95ff and (1972); Cirlot (1984) and (1985). 

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is no more convincing; the evidence of iconography, literary sources and the 
chroniclers of the First Crusade, as well as a few Arab sources, all converges, 
obliging the historian to locate the diffusion of this new method before the 
end of the eleventh century; it is highly likely that it first saw the light of day 
in central France or Normandy around 1050. 1 

So it was long after the appearance of the saddle and the stirrup that the 
technique of knightly cavalry combat became general in the west, and though 
it certainly owes its success to these linked inventions, without which it would 
not have been possible, it is difficult to attribute to them alone the adoption 
by the warrior aristocracy of this method of fighting. Even less can we attribute 
to them the major social changes of the tenth and eleventh centuries which 
antedate them. 

On the other hand, there is no doubt that this method, which became 
a characteristic of the knights because adopted by them, contributed to the 
separation, within the category of mounted warriors, of those who were able to 
fight in this manner and those who were not. It resulted on the one hand in an 
acceleration of the process of specialisation already described, and on the other 
in a social and ideological cleavage. The elite of the cavalry, equipped for the new 
way of fighting, was further separated not only from the mass of footsoldiers 
( pedites ) but also from those who, though fighting on horseback, lacked the 
necessary resources for the very expensive equipment of the new knights. It 
has been estimated that the cost of the complete equipment of a knight was 
in c. 1100 in the region of 10 livres, and that its upkeep necessitated revenues 
corresponding to an estate of some 150 hectares. 62 In these circumstances, it is 
clear that only members of the landed aristocracy could afford to be knights 
themselves, while surrounding themselves with ‘other’ knights. These ‘others’ 
were dependants, maintained by their lords, or mercenaries putting their skills 
at the service of a potentate. It is also clear that this elite was increasingly 
distinguished from the rest of the warriors and tended to form a corporation, 
then a class and finally a caste, dominated and penetrated by the nobility which 
controlled entry to it. 

The knightly class so formed was distinguished from the other warriors by 
equipment, by methods of fighting and training, by the way of life and manners 
and lastly by an ethic and an ideology, known as ‘chivalric’. 

The equipment is well known. It consisted of horses and of defensive and 
offensive weapons. We should speak of horses in the plural. The literature 
of the twelfth century may often convey the image of a solitary wandering 

61 Ross (1984); Flori (1988); Sigal (1991); Gaier (1992), pp. 5 7 IT. 

62 Du by (1953), p. 197; Van Luyn (1971), pp. 38-42; Contamine (1980), p. 189; Fossier (1982), p. 429; 
Flori (1998a), pp. 89-119. 

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Knightly society 


knight / 3 but the reality was that, to be fully operational, the knight needed 
to have at his disposal several war-horses ( destriers ). He had to make provision 
for the horse’s death, injury or flight if the rider was unseated. The knight 
who had fallen to the ground also needed immediate assistance if he was not 
to fall prey to the enemy infantry. His squire was responsible for watching 
over his master and bringing him a new horse with minimal delay. Further, it 
was better to keep the war-horse for battle, and use other horses (palfreys or 
rounceys) for journeys or transport. The squire who provided this service to the 
knight, tending his horses and weapons, was at first merely a servant, sometimes 
a peasant. His status rose during the eleventh century, as the prestige of the 
knight with whom he was associated, if at an inferior level, grew; for some it was 
a preparatory and provisional status, the way that future knights accomplished 
their apprenticeship. Not every squire, of course, became a knight, only those 
who were already members of an aristocratic class in the process of becoming 
closed / 4 

The defensive arms of the knight consisted essentially of the shield ( scutum , 
targe)-, the most common type in the twelfth-century west was that diffused by 
the Normans (and already portrayed in the Bayeux Tapestry), oblong in shape 
and pointed at the base. The knight hung it from his neck when riding and 
holding the reins, and held it in front of him on his left arm when he charged. 
The helmet or helm {galea, helmo) was also pointed in the twelfth century, and 
usually had an extension to protect the nose (the nasal). The helm was laced 
over the collar of the hauberk, a coat of woven mail, or the byrnie, a leather 
tunic covered with stitched plates or scales of metal, if, that is, as seems likely, 
the words hauberk and byrnie really do, in the twelfth century, indicate two 
different types of cuirass {loricd)K The strengthening of the hauberk and its 
effectiveness against blows with the edge of a sword, and even, though to a 
lesser extent, thrusts, is probably linked to the adoption of the new technique 
of cavalry combat without it being possible to say which came first. 

The offensive arms are equally well known. In the eleventh century, knights 
were wholly familiar with the use of the bow or crossbow, which so impressed 
the Greek princess Anna Comnena when the crusaders reached Constan- 
tinople . 66 But the process of specialisation referred to above led to the for- 
mation of troops of archers who were footsoldiers ( pedites ), whose role was to 
overwhelm the enemy lines with their arrows before moving aside to make 
way for the massive cavalry charge of the knights. The latter only used the 
bow when they were themselves pedites, for example during sieges. In charges, 

6 3 Chenerie (1986). 

64 Menant (1980); Bennett (1986); Paterson (1986); Flori (1992a). 

65 Butin (1965), pp. I03ff; De Riquer (1968); Gaier (1979); Contamine (1980), pp. 320-5. 

66 Anna Comnena, Alexiade, X, vm. 6; Morton and Muntz (1972), pp. 112— 15. 

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their preferred weapon, from the middle of the eleventh century, was the long 
and heavy lance of ash, held under the arm in the fashion already described. 
The head-on collision was then so violent that it was by no means uncommon 
to see the lance, and even the ensign that it carried, pierce the enemy right 
through, as is related in many ‘historic’ sources, not to speak of the epics which 
make this one of their favourite motifs. 7 It is therefore hardly surprising that 
they were often broken on the shields or hauberks, forcing the knight to draw 
his sword (ensis gladius) and fight at close quarters, in the melee. 

The supremacy of the knightly cavalry in pitched battles resulted from several 
factors: the penetrative power of the compact, collective charge performed 
in serried ranks; the remarkable protection afforded by the hauberk to the 
knight (though not yet to the horse, vulnerable to enemy arrows) and the 
general high quality of the weapons of these aristocratic warrior elites. It was 
also related to the respect felt for them and to the tacit acceptance of the 
rules of knightly combat, then being imposed in the west, and without which 
their supremacy would have been less pronounced. In fact, to be effective, 
the cavalry charge was dependent on the method of the head-on clash being 
adopted by the two opposing sides. If this was not the case, the charge was 
into a void. This was what happened in the first battles fought by the crusader 
knights against the Turks. They were completely disorientated by the fighting 
methods of the Turkish cavalry, who hurled their javelins at them from a 
distance, then simulated a disorderly flight in order to separate their pursuers, 
whom they then showered with arrows by pulling their bows in full flight, on 
horseback, turning round. The disarray of the crusaders, reported by all the 
chroniclers, emphasised the extent to which the conventions regarding knightly 
combat had already been largely accepted by the end of the eleventh century, 
some fifty years after the appearance of this new method of fighting. 68 It also 
suggests that the popularity of the method of the couched lance and the charge 
might have owed more to its aristocratic connotations than to its real military 

It is probable, in any case, that the new method of knightly warfare gained 
acceptance at the same time that tournaments ( torneamenta ) became popular, 
a phenomenon reflected in literature, especially after 1150, under the patronage 
of the courts of Champagne, of Flanders and (later) of the Plantagenets, where 
both tournaments and chivalric literature (Chretien de Troyes) found favour. 
Tradition attributes the invention of tournaments to Geoffroy de Preuilly, not 
long before 1066, but their real popularity came after 1100. They continued to 

67 Ibn Munqidh, Des Enseignemetits de la vie, p. 147: Guibert of Nogent, Gesta Dei vii, 44; Fulcher of 

Chartres, Historia Hierosolytnitatia n, 11; Flori (1988), pp. 227 ff. 

68 Guibert of Nogent, Gesta Dei in, 11; Fulcher of Chartres, Historia Hierosolymitanai, 11; Smaii (1956), 

pp. 77-82, 106-20; but see also Strickland (1996), pp. 98ff and i33ff; Flori (1998b), pp. 389-405. 

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Knightly society 


develop throughout our period, despite the reservations and condemnations 
of the church, which saw them, with reason, as a game comparable to war. 

In fact, up to the end of the twelfth century, tournaments bore little resem- 
blance to the spectacular sporting jousts of later centuries, where two knights 
equipped with blunted weapons {a plaisance), opposed each other face to face 
in an enclosed field; they still took the form of real collective combats oppos- 
ing two camps, one of which ( ceux du dehors ) beset the other ( ceux du dedans), 
blocking or provoking their sorties, laying ambushes, seeking to isolate a few 
knights from the opposing troops as a preliminary to unseating them and seiz- 
ing their horse as booty or, better still, capturing the knight as well and holding 
him to ransom. The essence was the collective charge, even if the individual 
exploits, glorified by the jongleurs, were remarked on and excited admiration 
and envy, bringing glory and the hope of eventual social promotion. 69 

Tournaments were no different from war in the matter of method, and 
constituted a sort of general repetition of war, its intensive and public prolon- 
gation. But these battles lent themselves nevertheless to codification, and gave 
birth to an ethic and rules which the knights tacitly observed. These features 
were also to be found in real war, even in major battles. Describing the battle 
of Bremule (1119), Orderic Vitalis emphasised that there were only three deaths 
among the knights because they were well protected, being clad in mail, but 
also because, as they did not thirst after the blood of their brothers-in-arms, 
they spared each other, straining to capture but not to kill those who fled. 70 

So tournaments forged the chivalric ethos. They also promoted solidarity in 
battle. It was in tournaments that tactics were perfected, and the cohesion and 
necessary discipline of the teams of knights ( conrois ) forged, encouraged by their 
previous companionship and collective training. It was in tournaments, even 
more than in the other less serious forms of training ( behourds and quintains, 
practised in castle courtyards or lists), through mixing together and shared 
actions, that solidarity was forged between the knights of one lord, irrespective 
of social or economic differences. It was also in tournaments that these emerged 
and developed the role of distinctive marks, colours and blazons, which came 
to be called ‘arms’, whose aristocratic character is obvious and which also 
promoted solidarity. 

Of course, such a ‘chivalric’ solidarity did not abolish barriers or level social 
ranks, or put the ‘household knights’ ( milites gregarii) on the same plane as 

69 Duby (1973a) and (1984), pp. m-53; Gauche (1981); Keen (1984), pp. 83-101; Barker (1986); Flecken- 
stein (1986); Barber and Barker (1989); Flori (1991) and Barber (1995), pp. 156-79 and Flori (1998a), 
pp. 131-52. 

70 Orderic Vitalis, Ecclesiastical History xu, 18; ‘Ferro enim undique vestiti erant, et pro timore Dei 
notitiaque contubernii vicissim sibi parcebant, nec tantum occidere fugientes quam comprehendere 
satagebant’. See also Strickland (1996), pp. i6off. 

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the princes who employed them. But at least on the battlefield or in the 
tournament, the moral courage, physical strength and fighting abilities of the 
knight counted for more than birth or wealth. 

Tournaments also, as has often been said, gave humble knights or younger 
sons a chance of social advancement. A ‘poor’ knight, lacking land, a younger or 
disinherited son, might here, by his prowess, attract the attention of a prince, be 
hired as one of his knights, fight under his banner, and assure his own future. A 
young ‘bachelor’, a poor unmarried man, might also hope, by the same method, 
to seduce by his exploits some rich heiress (or even more her father), and win 
her in marriage. Literature abounds with cases of this type, and some are known 
to history. It is certainly true that, rare though they might be, it was by these 
means, and perhaps by them alone, that a certain social mobility continued to 
exist at the end of the twelfth century, at a period when the nobility had taken 
over knighthood, directing and controlling access to it, making it an aristocratic 
profession deeply imbued with its own ideology. It was marriage rather than 
knighthood which gave access to the nobility, but knighthood contributed, to 
the extent that it permitted and promoted ‘noble’ marriage . 71 


At the beginning of our period, knighthood did not yet exist. The only concern 
of the theoreticians of the church was to condemn the savage turbulence of 
those inveterate pillagers, the milites. It was against them that the church 
asked kings and princes to hold firm the sword of justice and order. Militia 
(militia) rhymed with malitia (malice), as churchmen, and especially monks, 
liked to point out, in a formula which was repeated by Bernard of Clairvaux 
in the middle of the twelfth century, when the rise of the knights was at its 
height . 72 

But times were changing. In the mid-eleventh century, knighthood em- 
barked on the rise which took it, within a century, to such towering heights. 
This involved a veritable ideological promotion, for which the two great powers 
of the period were responsible: the church and the aristocracy. 

Let us look first at the church. For the historian, nothing is more surprising 
than the complete volte-face performed by the church with regard to war, as 
the conversion of the emperor Constantine transformed the initial condem- 
nation of war into its legitimation in certain circumstances. By our period, the 

71 Duby (1973a), pp. 41-3, 110-28, (1981), pp. 259ff (pp. 243ff of English translation) and (1984), pp. 
i37ff, and Bouchard (1981) and (1998); Aurell I Cardona (1985); and (1996), pp. 63ff; Flori (1990b), 
pp. 78ff and (1999b). 

72 Bernard of Clairvaux, Vita Sancti Malachiae, PL 182, cols. 556, 675, 923; Flori (1986a), pp. 209ff. 

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Knightly society 

1 77 

U-turn was far in the past, and the just war - that is, war ordered by the public 
authorities to defend the country or restore a violated peace and justice - was 
no longer condemned, especially if, as in the Carolingian period, it meant fight- 
ing against pagan enemies who ravaged churches and monasteries. But serious 
reservations persisted when it was a matter of Christian warriors confronting 
each other. This is visible in the penitentials, which still, on the threshold of 
the eleventh century, prescribed days of fasting for the warrior who had killed 
his enemy on the battlefield, even under orders. 73 As late as 1070, the soldiers 
of William the Conqueror, though fighting the ‘perjurer’ Harold, and under 
the papal banner, did penance four years after Hastings. 74 

However, the need of the church for warriors to undertake its defence in- 
creased as the interdiction forbidding clerics to shed blood, quietly buried in 
the Carolingian period, was gradually reasserted during the eleventh century, 
whilst the authority of kings and princes grew weaker. The institutions of 
peace, the Peace of God and the Truce of God, were what might be called a 
negative response to this preoccupation, seeking to limit the perverse effects 
and the duration of private wars. 

Another response was possible: to propose to the warriors an outlet and an 
ideal, to impregnate them with an ideology and an ethic which would dictate 
to them ‘from within’ how to behave, almost without their knowing it. It was in 
response to its own need for protection, for its property and its personnel, that 
the church transferred, from kings to princes and then to knights, that ancient 
mission to protect churches and the weak (that is, the inermes : ecclesiastics, 
widows, orphans and the poor) which would later constitute one of the finest 
flowerings of the chivalric ideal. 

This evolution can be traced in texts of the chivalric ceremony par excellence, 
dubbing, which marked entry into knighthood, and which incorporated, when 
the arms were handed to the knight, prayers and blessings strongly impregnated 
with ideology. We must be careful, however, not to see texts used for quite other 
purposes as relating to the dubbing of knights. In fact, it is clear that most of 
the prayers and blessings which comprise the most complete of the rituals for 
the dubbing of knights (for example, that of Guillaume Durand, at the end 
of the thirteenth century) were initially composed not for knights, but for 
kings or princes, and for the moment when they received, on assuming office, 
the sword of the militia, of public service, at the highest level. Other prayers, 
similarly ideologically charged, derived from ancient formulae for the blessing 
of banners or arms pronounced over royal armies setting out on campaigns 
against pagans, in particular the Vikings. All, or almost all, referred to the 

73 Vogel (1969), pp. 8iff; Flori (1983), pp. 14-19. 

74 Cowdrey (1969); Contamine (1980), p. 430. 

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ancient and traditional royal mission to protect the country against its enemies 
and maintain order within its frontiers. 75 

The royal origin of most of these formulae, and their late (thirteenth- 
century) collection in the ordines intended for the dubbing of knights, bear 
witness to the transfer to the knight of the ancient royal ethic of protecting 
the weak, and, by that very fact, to the ideological promotion of knighthood. 
But this point had not yet been reached in the twelfth century, still less in the 
eleventh, when the knighdy class as a whole did not as yet enjoy a good press 
in the church. 

Great importance has been attached, even recently, to a ritual of Cambrai, 
Rheims or Cologne (three designations for one single text) which would already, 
by the eleventh century, have included many prayers heavily charged with 
ethical elements in an ordo of dubbing. 76 This was not, in fact, an ordo of 
dubbing, but a ritual relating to the investiture of an advocate ( advocatus ), a 
warrior-vassal of the church charged with assuring the protection and defence 
of an ecclesiastical or monastic establishment. 77 

Nevertheless, the use for this purpose of formulae and prayers of royal origin 
reveals the real interest which the church then felt, not yet in knights as such, 
but in lords and warriors whom it recruited and tried to direct to undertake 
its own defence. We see here the beginnings of an ideological promotion of 
certain warriors and a sanctification of certain wars undertaken on behalf of 

This is even more marked in the case of the church of Rome and the direct 
interests of the papacy. The eleventh century saw a stepping up of the process 
of sanctification of wars waged on papal orders against the enemies of Chris- 
tianity, often confused with the immediate adversaries of popes: pagans and 
the infidel (Muslims), but also ‘heretics’, schismatics or temporal adversaries 
of the papacy. 78 Leo IX, having recruited in the empire milites for the church 
of Rome, led them into battle at Civitate against the Christian Normans of 
Robert Guiscard, who cut them to pieces (17 June 1053). Leo had previously 
absolved the milites from their sins and it is highly probable that he had made 
spiritual promises in case of their death in battle, since he did not hesitate to 
pronounce them forthwith admitted to paradise in the company of the holy 
martyrs. 79 Gregory VII made similar use of spiritual promises to the milites 

75 Van Winter (1976); Flori (1979a), pp. 266 ff; Leyser (1984). 

76 Erdmann (1955), pp. 332ff; Bloch (1968), pp. 633ff; Contamine (1980), pp. 442ff; Poly and Bournazel 
(1980), pp. i78ff. 

77 Ordo adArmandum ecclesiae defensorem vel alium militem, MSS Cologne 141 and Bamberg 56. See 
also Flori (1985a). 

78 Erdmann (1955); Noth (1966); Brundage (1969), pp. 29ff; Russell (1975); Cowdrey (1976), pp. 9-31; 
Delaruelle (1980); Flori (2001), pp. i6iff. 

79 Flori (1990a). 

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Knightly society 

1 79 

who committed themselves to the service of the church of Rome as milites 
sancti Petri, or who became vassals of the holy see and espoused its cause. So 
When, in 1074, he contemplated organising, even personally conducting, a 
military expedition to assist the Christian east threatened by the Turks, he 
emphasised anew the moral significance of such wars and the spiritual rewards 
assured to those who perished in a just war on behalf of the heavenly king and 
Christ. 81 

This was, admittedly, an expedition against the ‘infidel’, but we find very 
similar features in the case of combats led by papal champions against Christian 
adversaries regarded as schismatics or heretics. Thus the milites Liutprand and 
Erlembald, who assisted the pope during the Milanese Pataria, were described 
by him as milites Christi (the very expression adopted by the crusaders some 
years later) and were, by their death in a good cause, elevated to the ranks of 
the martyrs and the blessed by Gregory VII in 1078, in the presence of the 
future Pope Urban II. 82 

So when Urban II preached the crusade at Clermont in 1095, he was only 
following in the footsteps of Alexander II, Leo IX and Gregory VII. It is true 
that the crusade had many features which distinguished it from the ‘holy wars’ 
hitherto defined, in particular its elements of (armed) pilgrimage, of mystical 
or eschatological appeal, of being an act of fraternal piety and other aspects 
emphasised by recent historians of the crusades. 83 But it does not seem to me, 
contrary to the views of J. Riley- Smith, that Urban II displayed any reticence 
in describing the crusaders as milites Christi or promising the martyr’s palms to 
those who died in battle against the infidel. 84 In practice, the crusade combined 
all the criteria for the ‘holiest’ of wars, since it was simultaneously directed 
against the enemies of Christendom, preached by the pope and intended to 
liberate the holy places, perhaps even reconquer lands once Christian, as well as 
being directly descended from the institutions of peace (Clermont was above 
all a council of peace); it therefore offered turbulent warriors, fomenters of 
disorder in the Christian west, the chance to purge themselves of their faults by a 
penitential but also warlike pilgrimage, without abandoning the world or their 
arms, but directing their military ardour against the enemies of Christianity, 
despoilers of ‘Christ’s heritage’. 85 

80 Robinson (1973); Blake (1970); Semmler (1985); Flori (1997). 

81 Gregory VII, Registrum 11, 31; 11, 37; 1, 46, etc.; Cowdrey (1972), p. 12, (1984), pp. 27-40; and (1998), 
pp. 638ff; Gilchrist (1988). 

82 Cowdrey (1985), pp. 48-9. 

83 Duby (1966); Cahen (1983), pp. 53-65; Riley-Smith (1986), pp. 1-30; Mayer (1988), pp. 8-37; 
Lobrichon (1998); Flori (1999a), pp. 263ff. 

84 Cowdrey (1985); Riley-Smith (1986), pp. 14-31; Flori (1991), pp. 121-39; Riley-Smith (1997), pp. 72 
et seq.; Flori (1999a), pp. 205ff. 

8s Flori (1992b), pp. noff and (2002), pp. 229ff. 

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Was this to attach a higher value to knighthood? Not at all, at least in princi- 
ple. Indeed, Urban II articulated this clearly, in the purest tradition of monastic 
thought: the militia led to sin; one ought therefore to leave it. But warriors 
could abandon the militia of the age without donning monastic garb; it was 
enough to change master, to serve God, Christ, the church, Christendom, 
instead of being a slave to the world and its princes; to fight for God against 
his enemies instead of indulging, at risk to their souls, in fratricidal wars and 
pillage. S6 Ralph of Caen, in order to glorify his hero, the Norman Tancred, 
portrays him as tormented with moral scruples because he knew that his con- 
suming passion, that is knighthood, distanced him from the gospel precepts 
by impelling him towards conquest, and the quest for heroism, prowess and 
glory, but as delighted when he learned that Pope Urban II, by preaching the 
crusade, assured him remission of his sins while at the same time giving him 
the opportunity to fight as a knight in the service of Christ. 87 

Bernard of Clairvaux still expressed this negative vision of the militia of the 
age c. 1130 when he wrote his De laude novae militiae, to encourage the warrior- 
monks of the Order of Templars, recently confirmed by the council of Troyes 
on 13 January 1129 (not 1128 as was formerly believed), but who sometimes 
questioned the merits of their double vocation. He depicted the knighthood 
of the age as given over to vanity, luxury, pride and indiscipline, and most 
of all condemned to sin since to kill an enemy, even in legitimate defence, 
was homicide. The knight of Christ, on the contrary, did not imperil his soul 
whatever happened; ‘he gives death in all security and receives it with even 
greater assurance: if he dies, it is for his own good; if he kills, it is for Christ’. 
His enemy is an infidel, which is why ‘in killing a wrongdoer, he commits an 
act not of homicide but, dare I say, of ‘malicide’. 88 

Denigration and condemnation of the internal wars of the knightly class, 
praise and sanctification of war waged against the infidel by the milites Christi : 
this surely demonstrates, on the part of the church and the papacy, an attempt to 
assume responsibility for the destiny of Christendom and take control, with its 
new powers, of the knights. The church, speaking through the pope, designated 
the enemy outside Christendom who must be confronted and whom the knight 
could safely fight: the infidel. But the church also designated other enemies 
within Christendom, whom it believed it had the right to hound, constrain 
and eradicate: the heretics, schismatics and, in general, all the enemies of the 

86 Guibert of Nogent, Gesta Dei 11, 4; Fulcher of Chartres, Historia Hierosolymitana 1 3. 

87 Ralph of Caen, Gesta Tancredi I. 

88 Bernard of Clairvaux, De Laude novae militiae hi, 4: ‘Miles, inquam, Christi securus interimit, 

interit securior . . . Sane cum occidit malefactorem, non homicida, sed, ut ita dixerim, malicida . 

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Knightly society 181 

church. This was a theme developed, at this period, by canonists such as Ivo 
of Chartres, Bonizo of Sutri and Anselm of Lucca. 89 

This attempt to create a new knighthood in the service of the ideals of the 
church, a new type of knight, the Christian knight ( miles Christianus) was 
unsuccessful, for a number of reasons. 

The first reason was political: kings and princes, especially in the second half 
of the twelfth century, regained control of affairs and their power increased. 
The notion of the state returned to favour and a theoretician such as John of 
Salisbury thought that the milites might see themselves as ‘saints’, in the service 
of God, when they served legitimate princes, who, for their part, ought to obey 
divine precepts. 90 

The second reason was religious: the crusade, during the twelfth century, 
was not always successful and its popularity declined. Detractors emerged, who 
criticised the direct involvement of the church in the sphere of war and violence, 
demanding that at least it did not itself brandish the sword of coercion, but left 
it to kings and princes, and their warrior entourages. The power of the papacy 
itself was challenged by statist ideologies and by sovereigns more jealous of 
their prerogatives, which they based on the rediscovered Roman law. 91 

The third reason was social: the knights of the twelfth century did not seek 
only spiritual or ideological patronage. They sought, above all, patrons. The 
distant reconquest of lands which had once been Christian might well excite 
the cupidity of some, but even then, it was in the service of their lord, their 
master or their employer, that they went on crusade and, usually, returned. In 
the twelfth century, knights aspired to princely courts far more than to distant 
dreams, and they adopted the aristocratic ideology of the court of their lord 
much more than a universalist Christian ideology which remained diffused or 

It was probably in recognition of this relative failure that the church tried 
to infuse the knightly class (the real chivalry) with its values, its ideals and 
its ethic by the use of dubbing, which had hitherto remained professional, 
utilitarian and lay. It was to recognise the existence of the knightly class as such, 
while seeking to modify its behaviour from within, by means of ideology. A 
few liturgical sources reveal that in the twelfth century, the formulae already 
forged for kings and princes, and discussed above, began to be used for knights 
{ad faciendos novos milites). The oldest rituals of dubbing properly speaking 

89 Bonizo of Sutri, Liber de vita Christiana vn; Ivo of Chartres, Decretum vm, x, xv and Panormia vm; 
Anselm of Lucca, Collectio canonica xi, vn, vm and especially xm; Gilchrist (1985); Flori (1986a), 
pp. 181-208: Cowdrey (1992). 

90 Flori (1982). 

91 Hehl (1980); Kedar (1984), pp. 97-136; Siberry (1985); Paul (1986), pp. 399-414. 

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date only from the very end of the twelfth century and the beginning of the 
thirteenth, but many references to ‘liturgical’ dubbings in the Latin historical 
sources as well as in epic and romance literature demonstrate that the church 
was trying by this means to institutionalise knighthood and inculcate it with 
an ideology, the ideology which it had previously assigned to kings: the defence 
of the country and the church, the protection of the inermes - ecclesiastics, 
women, the weak and above all widows and orphans. 92 This was an ideology 
which, curiously, united indirectly the kings and the princes served by the 
knights so dubbed. 

But this ideology, which we may for the sake of simplicity call ecclesiastical, 
since it effectively derived from the church, was not the only one to impregnate 
the knights. It was mixed with the aristocratic ideology developed, in princely 
courts during the twelfth century, by the literature called chivalric. 93 

It is far from easy to establish a sociological interpretation of this literature. 
The many disagreements on this point which still separate the specialists are 
clear proof. 94 However, they are in agreement on certain points, which are all 
that concern us here: the vernacular literature of the second half of the twelfth 
century reflects a resolutely aristocratic ideology, preaching lay values, which 
differed at certain points from those which the church sought to impose. 95 
Some of these values were properly military and no doubt had their roots in 
the distant past: the quest for warlike feats of arms, the cult of courage, the 
extolling of physical strength and virtus, loyalty to the war leader, a sense of 
fellowship, a thirst for fame and glory, etc. These were the values lauded above 
all in the epics, and in which the knights recognised themselves. 

After 1150, these values did not fade, but ceded first place to other, more aris- 
tocratic values, exalting nobility and lineage, birth and the virtues recognised 
as innate to it: good manners, ‘courtesy’, largesse - on which the knights who 
enjoyed it in princely courts depended - an often exaggerated sense of honour, 
keeping one’s word, the taste for gesture, a certain ‘hauteur’ verging on disdain 
for the ‘vulgar’, attachment to one’s ‘house’ and one’s ‘arms’, to one’s colours 
and bearings, etc. Chivalry added to ancestral values a new sporting, knightly 
conception of warfare. It led to the reduction of enslavement and systematic 
massacre of the defeated; it put emphasis upon capture rather than extermina- 
tion of the enemy, and upon the rule of showing ‘Merci’ to a defeated knight 

92 Flori (1986a), pp. 202-26. 

93 See, among others, Van Winter (1969); Payen (1970) and (1971), pp. 92—280; Mancini (1972); Kohler 
(1974); Duby (1988); Le Ridder (1978); Boutet and Strubel (1979), pp. 39-102; Bumke (1982), pp. 
77ff; Ruiz-Domenec (1984a); Barbero (1987), pp. 142-80; Flori (1998c). 

94 Jackson (1981), pp. 352-70; Harper-Bill and Harvey (1986). 

95 Frappier (1954); Maranini (1970); Duby (1978), pp. 352-70 (pp. 293-307 of English translation); 
Flori (1984), pp. 205-21; Ruiz-Domenec (1984b). 

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Knightly society 


asking to be spared. Little by little, it brought about a real improvement in the 
lot of prisoners, and helped in the formation of the later ‘laws of war’, even 
though this ethical outlook was still restricted exclusively to knightly society . 96 

We lack the space to discuss the love called ‘courtly’, codified by the treatise of 
Andrew the Chaplain, and whose ideological interpretation is as complex as it 
is controversial. Whether it served the interests of the petty nobility (E. Kohler) 
or those of the princes and courts (G. Duby), its aristocratic and noble colour is 
not disputed. All these values distinguished the nobility, which closed its ranks 
to the bourgeoisie whom it began to despise and to fear on account of its wealth 
and growing influence with the monarchs and great princes who had succeeded 
in rebuilding their power. Thus ‘squeezed’ between two powers who threatened 
it from above (the monarchy) and below (the bourgeoisie), ‘the nobility fled 
to what refuge it thought there was: in etiquette, worldly pleasures, ideology, - 
making its last stand on the ramparts of the imaginary ’. 97 

Knighthood then assumed mythical aspects. It was adorned with all the 
virtues. Its birth was pushed backwards in time to the beginning of the world 
(, ah initio ), the better to emphasise its beneficent character, willed by God. It 
became an ‘order’ of a society in which it is not difficult to recognise what 
would later be called the ‘nobility of the sword’ ( noblesse d’epee). Describing in 
Perceval the dubbing of its hero, Chretien de Troyes did not hesitate to assert 
that the pmd’homme who dubbed him thereby conferred: 

Le plus haut ordre avec l’epee 
Que Dieu ait fait et commande. 

C’est l’ordre de la chevalerie 
Qui doit etre sans vilenie . 98 

Here, the knights join the nobility in ideology. It is not so much, as was once 
thought, that knighthood conferred nobility ; 99 for this there is little evidence. 
Rather, the nobility, which had formed, closed and frozen in order to resist 
the joint assaults of the monarchy and the bourgeoisie, wholly ‘recovered’ the 
knights to its own advantage, infused them with its values and henceforward 
controlled entry to knighthood by an increasingly honorific ceremony of dub- 
bing . 100 

96 Keen (1965) and (1984), pp. 51-63: Cardini (1982); Burgess (1983); Flori (1990c); Gillingham (1992), 
(1994a) and (1994b); Strickland (1992a), (1992b) and (1996), pp. 183-203. 

97 Duby (1978), p. 390 (pp. 324-5 of English translation). For courtly love, see, among others, Kohler 
(1974); Schncll (1985) and (1989); Duby (1988); Flori (1990b); Scaglione, A. (1991); but see also 
Stanesco (1988), pp. 5ff see; however, Barilielerriy (1992b). 

98 Chretien de Troyes, Le Roman de Perceval, w. 1633-7. FI c> r i (1979b) and (1996); Burgess (1994). 

99 The arguments are summarised in Fossier (1982), pp. 964-79. 

100 Fleckenstein (1976), pp. 392-418; Flori (1976), (1979b) and (1987); Barbero (1987). 

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At the beginning of our period, not all knights were noble; many were not. 
By 1200, in most regions of western Europe, the situation was reversed and 
the nobility increasingly reserved a more highly valued knighthood for its own 
sons. The time was not far off when all knights would be sons of nobles, but all 
sons of nobles would not be knights, dubbing conferring an additional quality, 
a sort of ‘decoration’, attributing to whoever was dubbed the social, moral and 
charismatic virtues of an idealised chivalry. 

Thus the myth of chivalry left its stamp on the entire middle ages, which, 
for many of us, remains the age of castles and of knights who are not only 
knightly but chivalrous. 

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Ernst-Dieter Hehl 

in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, ‘Latin’ Europe went through a period of 
growing social differentiation, in which the function of each class became more 
clearly defined. The king was seen as the holder of an office, the discharge of 
which must answer to a basically Christian ordering of affairs. The warrior class 
emerged as a group whose position in society was determined by their ability 
and duty to bear arms, which gave them a claim to nobility. Differentials in 
the religious life emerged with the monastic reforms originating in Cluny and 
the development of new religious orders: Cistercians, Premonstratensians and 
canons. Religion also became more strongly centred on the Roman church 
and the pope. The interaction of these processes of transformation, within 
aristocratic and chivalric society on the one hand and the church on the other, 
gave rise to a new phenomenon in medieval history: the crusades. What was 
new was not so much the adoption of war to a religious context as the fact 
that the pope was summoning the whole of western Christendom to war: to a 
certain extent, western Christendom constituted itself as such by going jointly 
to war. No longer was individual withdrawal from the world into the cloister the 
sole representation of the ideal Christian life. Rather did war, a worldly activity, 
and the Christian life come together in a previously unknown relationship, no 
longer opposed one to the other. Fighting, which had previously been a way 
for the individual to rise above the mass of the population, shook free of this 
orientation and became part of a greater whole. In the case of the crusades, 
this greater whole was Christendom. At the same time, however, the duty of 
the warrior to the socio-political unit in which he lived was stressed ever more 
strongly. Not only the church, but also kings, as heads of such units, took 
advantage of this integration of warlike activity into a Christian order and way 
of life. The essence of this integration was that the warrior must pursue not 
his own interests but those of his fellow men. The ideal justification of his 
struggle was no longer the old aristocratic striving to increase his own fame 


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i8 6 


and self-esteem, but love of his neighbour, that fundamental Christian virtue 
through which he expressed his love of God. 

The equation between the life of the warrior aristocracy and the Christian 
concept of order, which I have just outlined, actually took a long time. Not 
only can it be deduced from the actual events; it was also accompanied and 
demanded by the reflections of contemporaries. War was conceived as a way 
to maintain the world order - to keep the peace. 


In 1038, the emperor Conrad II went from Basel to Friesland pacem firmando - 
to strengthen the peace. That is how Wipo, his biographer, sums up his account 
of the emperor’s final acts. 1 The first duty of the ruler was to maintain peace 
and justice. Wipo was propagating a traditional ideal of kingship. The corona- 
tion order (ordo no. 72) in the tenth-century Pontificate Romano-Germanicum 
stresses the king’s duty to protect church, people and kingdom. The king must 
not stay on the defensive: he must also fight against the heathen peoples out- 
side the kingdom, as well as false Christians and enemies of Christendom. The 
end was peace; the king’s means to that end should be justice and military 

It was not only on the king’s behalf that God’s blessing was called down 
on the performance of martial duty. The Pontificate contains a mass for the 
army (ordo no. 245); the army was also included in the prayers at the king’s 
consecration. God would stand by the army. In victory, it should thank Christ, 
who was the real victor. Neither the liturgy nor the ceremonial of kingship 
shows any reservations about warfare, so long as it serves the defence of the 
kingdom and of the Christian order. 

However, there is one reservation which is significant for the evaluation of 
war at the beginning of the eleventh century. It emerges from the regulations 
for penance. Those who killed in battle had to do penance, according to the 
Decretum of Bishop Burchard. This collection, which was widely disseminated 
up to the twelfth century in Germany and northern Italy, systematises eccle- 
siastical law and was thus well adapted to practical use. Burchard influenced 
the compilations of canon law by Ivo of Chartres at the turn of the eleventh 
century, and through him the Concordia discordantium canonum of Gratian. 

Burchard has two themes: the ordering of the church (books i-v) and the 
correct penances for wrongdoing by both laymen and monks (books vi— xix). 
In his conclusion he enhances both themes by a description of the expectation 
of eternal life. Right penance upon earth is an indispensable preliminary to 

1 Wipo, Gesta Chuonradi imperatoris, ch. 38 , in Wipo, Opera , p. 58 . 

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War, peace and the Christian order 187 

this. Burchard’s questioning leads to a negative view of real life on this earth. 
He is interested in the sins and failings of individuals and the penances which 
they require, not in the socio-political order. He treats war and warlike disputes 
only to the extent that they are connected with sinful killing and guilt. He takes 
sinful killing very seriously, devoting the whole of his first book on penance to 
the subject (book vi of the Decretum). 

The general readiness to resolve ‘private’ conflicts by the use of force made 
killing in war, and at a lord’s command, seem legitimate. In opposition to this 
view Burchard quoted (vi.23) the penitential of Hrabanus Maurus. Hrabanus, 
and Burchard after him, refused to accept the excuse that one had taken up 
arms on ‘princes’ orders’ ( jussu principum) . Such killing was a consequence of 
greed and a desire to please an earthly ruler; it showed a disdain of God and His 
commandments. Hrabanus had written this as a partisan of Lothar I, when 
the struggle between Louis the Pious’ sons had shaken the Frankish kingdom, 
and Lothar had suffered a defeat at Fontenoy in 841. Burchard detached these 
explanations from their historical context and made them into general princi- 
ples. They stood in contradiction to a social order based on the warrior’s 
duty of loyalty to his lord. The expectation of reward for services rendered 
is denounced as greed, the root of all evil. The social link with an earthly 
ruler is subordinated to the link with God. However, Hrabanus succeeded 
in resolving this dilemma. He concluded by distinguishing between the le- 
gitimate ruler and the rebellious tyrant, the defender and the disturber of the 
peace. This solution inclined towards a more abstract understanding of lordship 
which could distinguish between the just and the unjust. Burchard made no 
use of it. 

When Burchard composed an order for penance (bookxix of the Decretum), 
he made much more use of Hrabanus’ wording when establishing a penance 
for killing in battle. The penitent was asked, ‘Have you killed in war, on the 
orders of a legitimate ruler, who ordered it for the sake of peace, and did you 
kill a tyrant who wished to violate the peace?’ If he said yes, then ‘do penance 
at the time of the three [annual] fasts on the prescribed days of the week’. 2 The 
penance is less than what Burchard lays down for other kinds of killing, but 
he does insist on it. The deed itself- any shedding of blood in war - required 
penance. This is particularly striking in that Burchard does not totally forbid 
the punishing of evildoers. He approves of the death penalty, since God himself 
has sanctioned it (vi.43 and 44). What he does reject is bloodshed without a 
trial which has proved the individual guilty. His attitude may stem from a taboo 
on shedding blood; if so, he conceived it in terms of Christian teaching. For 

2 Burchard of Worms, Decretorum libri viginti xix.5: ‘Fecisti homicidium in bello, jussu legitimi 
principis, qui pro pace hoc fieri jusserat, et interfecisti tyrannum qui pacem pervertere studuit? Tres 
quadragesimas per legitimas ferias poeniteas’: PL 140, col. 952. 

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killing a Jew or heathen he demands a penance of forty days, because the killer 
‘has destroyed an image of God and the hope of a future conversion’. 3 Even 
after killing, without any feeling of hatred, some membrum diaboli, in order 
to free oneself or one’s family, Burchard recommends fasting propter imaginem 
Dei (xix.5). Killing a human being shook the very foundations of Christian 

However, Burchard says that doing penance and taking part in war can be 
combined if the war is against the heathen. As a rule, a penitent ought not to 
carry or use any weapons after serious offences involving killing. Burchard often 
adds to this the exception ‘unless it is against the heathen’. 4 Thus, traditional 
teaching on penance already contained an invitation for crusaders to interpret 
the struggle against the heathen as a penitential act. 

Burchard attributed the passage from Hrabanus’ penitential, quoted above, 
to a council of Mainz. This supposed origin lent it higher authority. In fact, no 
council from late antiquity to the ninth century, and no papal decrees, had ever 
demanded penance for killing in war. It is found only in penitentials, which 
mostly prescribe a penance of forty days. The demand came from a kind of 
source whose authority was increasingly being contested. As the ecclesiastical 
law of late antiquity, together with papal decrees, came increasingly to be 
accepted as authoritative, the demand for penance in such cases might lose its 
raison d’etre. 

With the Gregorian reforms this tendency became more marked. Penance 
for killing in war now appeared as a prescript of the local church law which 
the reformers were seeking to undermine. While earlier penances could still 
be seen as ritual cleansings, penance now assumed guilt. At the same time, 
following the teaching of Augustine, sins were increasingly seen no longer 
merely as deeds, but also in relation to the will and mentality of the sinner. 

The idea was not new. Hrabanus had argued against it in his penitential, 
and Burchard followed him. For after the battle of Fontenoy the bishops on the 
winning side had explained that it had taken place ‘only for the sake of justice 
and equity’. Therefore, participation did not imply guilt. Only those who had 
fought out of hatred, desire for fame and similar motives had to confess and do 
proper penance for their guilt. 5 Here it was not the actual, visible deed which 
counted, but the mentality of the doer - and that was not subject to judgement 
by outsiders. 

Later, in the first half of the eleventh century, Bishop Gerald of Cambrai 
reduced the idea to a formula: ‘The discharging of an office implies no guilt, 

3 vi. 33: quia imaginem Dei, et spem futurae conversionis extinxerat’: ibid., col. 772. 

4 vi. 34 and 4 6, xix.5, nisi contra paganos’; ibid., cols. 73, 777, 953. 

5 Nithard, Historiarum liber m.i: ‘inventumque est, quod sola iusticia et aequitate decertaverint’, pp. 


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War, peace and the Christian order 


if there is no sin in the conscience .’ 6 Gerald was aiming to justify the use 
of arms and the existence of the social group which bore them. His remark 
belongs in the context of a new, tripartite division of society according to 
function, and of Gerald’s own disputes with the ‘Peace of God’ movement. 
Here he represented the conservative view. It was for the king, not the bishops, 
to organise the keeping of the peace. But Gerald’s reasons for excusing those 
who gave military service to the king in fulfilment of their obligations had 
implications for the future. Here, his arguments intersected with the moral 
revaluation of military action in the ‘Peace of God’ movement. 


The ‘Truce of God’ originated in southern France in the second half of the 
tenth century. From there it spread over the whole country. Alongside the 
original aim of protecting churchmen and their institutions, unarmed civilians 
and their livelihoods, from the consequences of war there appeared attempts to 
keep particular days of the week, penitential seasons and the high feasts of the 
church’s year free from armed conflict. Thus the use of force in society would 
be reduced, and its consequences mitigated. The movements in support of the 
Peace of God and the treuga Dei were by implication redefining the role of war 
and weapons inside a society which was shaping itself more and more along 
Christian lines. 

Keeping the peace was no longer the duty of the king alone: the bishops took 
the same duty upon themselves, beginning in the south, which was outside 
the sphere of influence of the French king. Here their chief partners were the 
dukes of Aquitaine and certain powerful counts. Similarly, but at a later date, 
the bishops of northern France shared with the king in the task of organising 
peace. That peace seemed to them to be disturbed by the lesser nobles as they 
strove for power and independence. Hence some of the leading secular rulers 
used their support for the Peace of God as a means to eliminate rivals and 
concentrate political power in their own hands. 

The demands of the Peace of God were often formulated in negative terms. 
They forbade certain warlike activities, above all the plundering of churches 
and the oppression of unarmed civilians. There was no attempt to prohibit war 
as such. On the contrary, peace itself had to be defended by military means, 
even under the ever-present threat of ecclesiastical punishment. In this way the 
defenders of the peace defined a permissible war against disturbers of the peace, 
who had revealed themselves as enemies of the church not only through their 

6 Gesta episcoporum Cameracensium 111.52: officium non est in culpa, si deest peccatum in conscientia’: 
MHG Scriptores vii, p. 485 (hereafter GEC ). 

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behaviour, but also by their rejection of ecclesiastical punishments. Military 
pressure was exercised against those who dared to go against the peace. 

Churchmen could be involved in the organisation and command of military 
action to enforce an agreed peace. Thus Aimo, archbishop of Bourges, bound 
himself and all the male inhabitants of his diocese to pursue all enemies of the 
peace. Aimo and his newly created militia had some initial success; subsequently 
he made war on the lord of Bennecy, an alleged disturber of the peace, and 
destroyed his castle. It was said that 1400 people were killed in this attack. 
However, in 1038 the archbishop and his army suffered a crushing defeat. 
The chronicler Andrew of Fleury explains this by saying that God had turned 
against Aimo’s troops because of their atrocities at Bennecy. 7 The wars of the 
archbishop of Bourges showed a transition from defending the peace - which 
was pleasing to God - to fighting a war on which God’s blessing no longer 
lay. The change came about because Aimo allowed himself to be swayed by 
greed, the besetting sin of the warrior. Nevertheless, the episode mirrors the 
conviction that the church had the right to organise and conduct military 
measures on its own account, and that God would stand beside the church’s 
warriors in the fight for freedom. Some reservations are perceptible, however. 
When Andrew describes the archbishop’s army as ‘weaponless’ he is following 
older ideals, according to which a warrior of God should vanquish his enemies 
through trust in God and His saints, without the shedding of blood. 

In about 1040, Archibishop Reginbald of Arles and other bishops gave 
their unqualified approval to war against disturbers of the peace, as part of a 
propaganda letter on behalf of the treuga Dei in Italy. People ought to ‘follow in 
the footsteps of God and keep the peace one with another’, so as ‘to merit the 
possession of peace and endless rest with God’. Those who marched against 
disturbers of the peace ‘ought not to be considered guilty of any fault, but 
ought to go forth and return with the blessing of all Christians, as those who 
further the cause of God’. 8 Even on days which, according to the treuga, were 
to remain free from warlike activity it was permissible to take measures against 
disturbers of the peace. Because peace on earth was a prerequisite of peace in 
Heaven, the authors of the letter concluded that those who acted to defend 
the treuga were cultores causae Dei. By defending the peace they were serving 

The programme of the Peace movement was part of a wider religious and 
social reform. Deeds of violence showed that the foundations of common life 

7 Andrew of Fleury, Miracula s. Benedicti v.2-4; ed. de Certain (1859), pp. 192-8. 

8 MGH Constitutiones 1, pp. 596-7: ‘Rogamus vos et obsecramus . . . ut ... sequamini vestigia Dei, 
pacem habentes ad invicem, ut cum ipso mereamini pacem et tranquillitatem perpetuam pos- 
sidere . . . vindicantes nulli culpae habeantur obnoxii, sed sicut cultores causae Dei ab omnibus 
christianis exeant et redeant benedicti.’ 

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War, peace and the Christian order 191 

were being shaken to the core, the core being the relationship of man to Christ. 
This was formulated most incisively by the council of Narbonne in 1054: ‘We 
warn and command according to the law of God and our own, that no Christian 
shall kill any other Christian. For he who kills a Christian undoubtedly sheds 
the blood of Christ.’ 9 This reminds us of Burchards prohibition on killing a 
human being, the image of God. 10 However, killing is not prohibited altogether. 
The precept of Narbonne immediately goes on to consider the circumstances 
in which someone might kill a man ‘unjustly’ ( injuste ) - meaning that it does 
not exclude the possibility of ‘just’ killing. Not only did the council give the 
usual order that peace must be kept for the protection of the church and of 
unarmed civilians; its conditions for the treuga included numerous occasions on 
which weapons must be laid aside altogether. In other words, it still implicitly 
sanctioned private feuds as a form of armed self-help. 

The Peace movement aimed for a reduction in private warfare and a new way 
of defending peace and justice. The movement was connected with a general 
transformation of society and an increasing focus on religion, which extended 
to the laity. ‘The law of God and almost the whole of Christian religion have - 
so we read - come to nothing; injustice abounds, and love has grown cold’: 
it was in these terms that the synod of Elne, in 1027, described the state of 
contemporary society, which they sought to overcome by renewing the treuga 
In the 1030s, Radulf Glaber saw the ‘peace of God’ movement as a sign that 
God had once again turned His face towards His creation, after a time when 
the sinfulness of mankind had made it seem very likely that the end of that 
creation was nigh. Radulf thought that councils should be held with the broad 
aim of ‘re-establishing peace and consolidating the holy faith’. 12 

The Peace movement was born out of feelings of insecurity, especially within 
the church and among civilians. This uncertainty was perceived as a crisis, 
which they tried to overcome by a change in attitudes and by penitence. 
Against this background the treuga Dei can also be understood as a change in 
attitudes: it was not the capitulation of a pacifist church to a fundamentally 
belligerent social group. The warrior who accepted the treuga renounced the 
use of weapons at times which were sacred to God, but their use was permissible 
at other times - just as married couples were bound at times to show their love 

9 Mansi 19, col. 827: ‘monemus, et mandamus secundum praeceptum Dei, et nostrum, ut nullus 
Christianorum alium quemlibet Christianum occidat: quia qui Christianum occidit, sine dubio 
Christi sanguinem fundit’. 

10 See above, note 3. 

11 Mansi 19, col. 483: ‘Hoc autem pactum sive treugam ideo constituerunt, quoniam Divina lex, et 
pene onmis Christiana religio ad nihilum deducta, ut legitur, abundabat iniquitas, et refrigescebat 

12 Radulf Glaber, Historiae iv.v.14: ‘de reformanda pace et sacre fidei institutione celebrarentur concilia : 
ed. France (1989), pp. 194-5. 

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of God by abstaining from sexual intercourse. The Peace of God movement 
took religious rules which applied to all lay people and adapted them into 
regulations which affected only warriors. Warriors were beginning to form a 
class apart. 

In the 1030s the Peace of God movement was criticised by two bishops from 
the ecclesiastical province of Rheims: Gerald of Cambrai, who belonged to the 
German empire, and Adalbero of Laon. Both started with the idea that the role 
of the king as a defender of the peace had been diminished. Both saw society 
as being made up of three functional groups: those who prayed, those who 
fought and those who tilled the soil. 

Gerald of Cambrai opposed the bishops of Soissons and Beauvais, who in 
1023 had demanded an oath to defend peace and justice which contradicted 
the fundamental ordering of society: 

In this way the state of holy church is cast into confusion, for it ought to be governed 
by two persons, the king and the priest. It is the latter’s part to pray, and the former’s 
to fight. Thus it is the duty of kings bravely to suppress revolts, to bring peace after 
war, and to encourage peaceful intercourse. The duty of bishops is to exhort kings to 
fight bravely for the safety of their country and to pray that they may be victorious . 13 

Gerald’s argument turns on the duties of kings; he differentiates between king 
and bishop on the basis of the distinction between imperial (or royal) power 
and episcopal authority proposed in the fifth century by Pope Gelasius I. 

Gerald himself had to swear the required oath. A few years later, probably 
in 1036, he quarrelled with French bishops who were trying to forbid the use 
of weapons. 14 On this occasion he developed his idea of three functions which 
must be mutually supportive. Warriors ( pugnatores ) are there to ensure that 
those who pray ( oratores ) and those who till the soil ( agricultores ) can go about 
their business undisturbed. They themselves profit not only from the work 
of the farmers, but also from the fact that the holy prayers of the pious men 
whom they protect deliver them from the sinfulness of bearing arms’. 15 Gerald 
does bear in mind the intrinsic sinfulness of the use of arms, but opposes to it 
the principle that the discharging of an office implies no guilt, if there is no sin 
in the conscience’. 16 He supports his argument with instances from the Old 
Testament of people who took up arms ‘at God’s call’ (ex voce Domini), and by 

13 GEC hi. 27: ‘Hoc etiam modo sanctae aecclesiae statum confundi, quae geminis personis, regali 
videlicet ac sacerdotali, administrari precipitur. Huic enim orare, illi vero pugnare tribuitur. Igitur 
regum esse, seditiones virtute compescere, bella sedare, pacis commercia dilatare; episcoporum vero, 
reges ut viriliter pro salute patriae pugnent monere, ut vincant orare’ (p. 474). 

14 On the dating see Oexle (1981), pp. 74-6. Duby (1978), p. 63 dates it to 1024. 

15 GEC hi. 52: ‘Pari modo pugnatores, dum . . . armorumque delicta piorum quos tuentur expiat pre- 
catio sancta, foventur’ (p. 485). 

16 Ibid.; see above, note 6. 

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War, peace and the Christian order 193 

observing that in his own time it was the church which girded the sword on 

In his examination of the social order, Gerald speaks in general about those 
who fight, till the soil and pray. He is trying to describe the fundamental 
social units into which humanity has been divided from the beginning. 17 In 
the process he transfers to warriors the attributes which had formerly been 
confined to kings, and applies to them some comments from St Paul’s letter to 
the Romans: ‘The apostle also calls them [warriors] servants of God, saying, 
“For he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath”, and adds, “he 
beareth not the sword in vain’” (Romans 13:4). 18 Thus Gerald makes warriors 
share in the duties of kings. 

Kings, he says, have imposed laws which make it possible for churchmen 
and others to regain goods which have been stolen from them, and to force the 
robbers to make restitution. Gerald insists that such laws are valid, opposing the 
notions of the Peace movement, whose members saw such enforced restitution 
as part of a vicious circle of violence. Underlying this is Isidore of Seville’s 
definition of the just war: A war is just which is waged on authority to regain 
one’s possessions.’ 19 The just order of society is created by kings. It is not 
forbidden to bishops to enforce that order so as to gain justice for themselves 
and their church. Not only must kings help in that task: so must every warrior, 
and thereby he can show himself to be minister Dei. Gerald thought that if 
everyone gave up trying to defend his legitimate rights, and tried to make an 
agreed peace, this would simply lead to a victory of might over right. The mighty 
would establish what Augustine had described as a ‘false peace’ (pax falsa: De 
civitate Dei xix.12), instead of being guided by the laws. 20 Gerald concludes 
that defending the peace is the task not only of kings, but also of pugnatores. 

At about the same time, Bishop Adalbero of Laon adopted a similar position 
in his Carmen ad Rotbertum regem. The rule of kings and emperors ensures 
the security of the realm. But beside them stand ‘the warriors, the protectors 
of the churches; they defend all people, great and small, and so protect all, 
and themselves too, in the same way’. 21 Without any royal command, warriors 

17 Oexle (1987), p. 101 n. 189. 

18 GEC hi. 52: ‘Hos et apostolus ministros Dei appellat, ita dicens: “Minister enim Dei est, vindex in 
iram”, subinferens: “Non enim sine causa gladium portat’” (pp. 485-6). 

19 Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae xvm.i.2 (see text in note 50 below, in the version by Ivo of Chartres, 
Panormiav 111.54 = Gratian C.23 q.2 c.i). 

20 GEC hi. 52 and 53 (pp. 486-7). Also for the following. 

21 Adalbero of Laon, Carmen ad Rotbertum regem , lines 282—3: 

Hi bellatores, tutores aecclesiarum, 

Defendunt uulgi maiores atque minores, 

Cunctos et sese parili sic more tuentur. 

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assume the task of protecting churches. In this duty they are equal to the 
king. Hence Adalbero includes both in a single group, establishing a threefold 
ordering of society: some work, some fight, some pray (lines 295-6). If this 
order is correctly maintained, peace will follow. 

This ordering underlies Adalbero’s attack on the Cluniacs (lines 77-172). In 
his eyes the Cluniacs, under Abbot Odilo, have exceeded their competence and 
set themselves up as warriors. A ‘warlike order of monks’ ( monachorum bellicus 
ordo, line 156) has arisen, fighting under its ‘king’ Odilo: ‘Now I am a soldier. 
I shall remain a monk, but of another sort. No more shall I be a monk, but 
fight at the behest of my king’, explains a monk who has gone over to the new 
order. 22 Monks, whose militia (according to St Paul) meant not ‘entangling 
themselves with the affairs of this life’ (2 Timothy 2:4), are acting like secular 
warriors. Adalbero denounces the mixing of militia Dei and militia saecularis. 

Gerald’s and Adalbero’s views on the tripartite functioning of society stress 
the king’s role in the social order. But they also assign to soldiers alone the 
duty of defending the church. They mirror the process whereby certain of 
the king’s duties were being transferred to an emerging new class of warriors. 
Here they touch on some of the concerns of the Peace of God movement. The 
warrior ethic is Christianised. Adalbero points out the attendant danger, that 
the church and its institutions might themselves assume a warlike ethos: monks 
have turned into soldiers. The process of Christianising the warrior ethos posed 
the question whether the warrior’s militia saecularis was really comparable to 
the militia Dei, the lifestyle enjoined on ecclesiastics and monks as the surest 
path to salvation. A first rapprochement took place at the time of the crusades. 
A century after Adalbero wrote his satirical claim, ‘Now I am a soldier. I shall 
remain a monk, but of another sort’, Bernard of Clairvaux wrote his description 
of the Templars; and in that context, Adalbero’s satire had a positive ring. 


The papacy never had much to do with the Peace of God movement, and 
took no interest in it up to the time of Leo IX. However, the policy of the 
reforming papacy led to a further clarification of how warlike activity might be 
reconciled with the Christian life. This clarification was above all a consequence 
of the struggle which opposed Gregory VII and his supporters to the German 
king Henry IV and the antipope Guibert of Ravenna (Clement III). The 

22 Ibid., lines 112— 13: 

Miles nunc! monachus diuerso more manebo! 
Non ego sum monachus, iussu sed milito regis. 

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War, peace and the Christian order 


main question was whether pope and church could independently organise 
the fight to defend their interests, and achieve their ends by military means. 
The reformers who proclaimed that this was possible could not continue to 
maintain that war was invariably sinful. Such thoughts were avoided equally 
by defenders of the traditional notion of royal power, because they thought the 
king exercised his power in accordance with a God-given order. 

The reforming papacy from Leo IX to Alexander II 

When in 1053 Leo IX marched at the head of an army against the Normans 
of southern Italy, this did not imply any shift of principle. Earlier popes had 
engaged in military activity. Since the reforming papacy could no longer look 
for help to the western empire, which had been hostile since the time of 
Henry IV, the former had to organise the defence of its own interests and 
raise troops for its own war. Perhaps Leo had already promised forgiveness 
of sins in return for such support. In any case, he declared that participation 
in his campaign was pleasing to God, and promised that the fallen would 
go to heaven. His defeat called the religious basis of the undertaking into 
question. Leo himself grappled with the problem, comparing his war against 
the Normans with the struggle against the heathen; his ideas on the liberation 
of Christendom prefigure a motif of later crusading propaganda. 23 

The vitae of Leo and the polemical literature of the Investiture Contest 
present the dead of this war as martyrs. Similarly, the reformers reckoned 
Erlembald, the champion of the Milanese Tataria, as a martyr. The epitaph 
of the German anti-king Rudolf of Rheinfelden, who died in 1080 in battle 
against Henry IV, ends, ‘Death was to him as life, he fell for the church.’ 24 It 
was not the value of his death as witness to the Faith which earned him the 
martyr’s crown, but the fact that he fell in battle against (Christian) enemies of 
the church. The notion of martyrdom turned fighting for the church into a way 
for an individual warrior to save his own soul. This pattern of interpretation 
successfully displaced the notion that victory or defeat were God’s way of 
indicating which party was in the right. The wars of the church did not need 
to be justified by success. Death in battle could be a much better incentive for 
future generations to offer their lives in defence of the church. 

The Normans against whom Leo had campaigned later became vassals and 
allies of the reforming papacy. They were responsible for providing military 
protection to an elected pope. In 1059/60 Nicholas decreed that an usurper 
of the papal throne must be driven out ‘with human help’ ( humano auxilio). 1 ’’ 

23 PL 143, cols. 778-9. 

24 Schubert and Ramm, Die Inschrifien der Stadt Merseburg, no. 3: ‘Mors sibi vita fuit, ecclesiae cecidit.’ 

25 MGH Constitutiones 1, p. 551. 

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The state of affairs in Rome being what it was, military force was the only 
way to get a pope established. Contemporaries often looked sceptically on this 
connection between papal election and military might. Reformers like Peter 
Damian found it offensive. He complained bitterly about the schism between 
Alexander II and Cadalus of Parma (Honorius II) and the attendant fighting. 
Instead of putting up with injustice, the priesthood was trying to retaliate and 
so causing further injustice. Only the king could have recourse to the secular 
arm; the church must confine itself to the word of God. Peter Damian was 
defending the traditional division of functions between the secular and the 
spiritual power. His lament shows what arguments were used to overcome 
that division. Those who approved of military measures taken by the church 
appealed to the precedent of Leo IX, who was considered a saint in spite of his 
warmongering. Damian will not accept this. Good and evil, he says, must not 
be judged according to the merits of those who possess them, but according 
to their own nature. 16 Whatever the end, it could not justify the means, if the 
means used by the church was force. 

The wars against which Damian was protesting were wars waged by the 
church in its own cause. But during the pontificate of Alexander II, the papacy 
also expressed opinions about wars which lay outside its own immediate inter- 
ests. It sanctioned the Norman conquest of Muslim Sicily and called for help 
in the Spanish Reconquista, and Hildebrand at least (the later Pope Gregory 
VII) gave his support to William the Conqueror when he went in 1066 to seize 
the crown of Christian England. However, in none of these cases was the war 
instigated by the papacy. 

In Sicily and in England, accounts written by the conquerors set the war 
in a religious context. The combatants made their confession before battle. 
Participation in battle was not in contradiction to any penance which they 
had to do for sins committed, and it did not involve them in further sin. 
Alexander II offered absolution to soldiers willing to drive the Saracens out of 
Sicily ‘if they inwardly repent and avoid sinning in future’. 27 The war against 
the heathen was an integral part of the penance. It became a token of the 
soldier’s obedience to God’s commands. The reformers progressively modified 
the principle that penitents should bear no weapon. Gregory VII retained it as a 
basis, but allowed soldiers to use weapons ‘on the advice of pious bishops in the 
defence of justice’. lS This formula goes beyond the exception made for wars 

26 Peter Damian, Letter 87: ‘cum mala vel bona non pro meritis considerentur habendum, sed ex 
propriis debeant qualitatibus iudicari’: ed. Reindel, part 2, p. 514. 

27 Geoffrey Malaterra, De rebus gestis Rogerii it. 33: ‘absolutionem de offensis, si resipiscentes in futurum 
caveant . . . mandat’: ed. Pontieri, p. 45. 

28 Gregory vn, Registrum, vi. 5b, c. 6: ‘arma . . . ulteriusque non ferat nisi consilio religiosorum epis- 
coporum pro defendenda iustitia (p. 404). See also vii. 10 (p. 472), which permits the bearing of 
arms ‘on the advice of pious men’ (‘religiosorum virorum consilio’). 

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War, peace and the Christian order 197 

against the heathen, as practised by Alexander II in agreement with older 
penitential systems. It was rooted in the conviction that every man had a duty 
to defend justice, if necessary by force of arms. 

After the battle of Hastings, in 1070, the English church held a synod. In 
the presence of a papal legate, it laid down for William’s soldiers one of the few 
penances for killing in battle. 29 The judgement was based on two criteria. First, 
it emphasised that all killing, even in ‘public war’ (in bello publico), required 
penance. Second, the synod made casuistic distinctions between degrees of 
punishment. Penance was also incumbent on those who had not actually killed 
anybody, but had been ready to do so. 

In the second half of the eleventh century there was a twofold development. 
Sins were increasingly measured according to the mentality of the sinner, not 
according to the deed itself; this also applied to killing in battle. Penance should 
demonstrate not so much a rejection of the world as a fresh turning to God. 
Thus, penance could be combined with the use of arms in defence of justice 
and the church. 

This connection is clearly shown in Pope Alexander II’s appeal for support 
for the Spanish Reconquista. Men about to set out for Spain were told to make 
their confession and receive penance. Alexander then remitted it and granted 
them forgiveness for their sins. They would be able to bring their undertaking 
to a successful conclusion because they had begun it ‘under the admonition 
of God’ (divinitus admoniti)? 0 The adventurers had earned remission of their 
penance by their readiness to make war on the heathen; the next step was to 
define that same war as a work of penance, lest the participants should be accu- 
sed of avoiding penance altogether. Alexander did not go that far, but he judged 
the expedition strictly according to the criteria for the just war. He distinguished 
between a forbidden war against the Jews, who had submitted, and a permissible 
war on the Saracens: ‘For it is right to make war on those who are persecuting 
Christians and driving them out of their cities and dwelling-places.’ 31 

During those years the papacy took no part in the military organisation of 
the Reconquista. The Spanish princes and bishops were the driving force, and 
they strengthened the religious background of the struggle. They preached the 
triumph of the cross. When the cathedral of Barcelona was dedicated in 1058, 
Count Ramon Berenguer I expressed the hope that the cross would advance 
victoriously further into Spain. The anniversary of the dedication ought to be 
celebrated in future ‘for the honour of Christ and the glory of the holy cross, 
that God may give us victory over the barbarians through the triumph of the 

29 Text in Cowdrey (1969), pp. 241-2; Morton (1975), pp. 381-2. 

30 Lowenfeld (ed.), Epistolae pontificum Romanorum ineditae, p. 43, no. 82. 

31 PL 14 6, col. 1387: ‘In illos enim, qui Christianos persequuntur et ex urbibus et propriis sedibus 
pellunt, juste pugnatur.’ 

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cross’. 32 The triumph of the cross, the battle for the honour of Christ, and the 
safeguarding of the Peace of God through military action, are all crusading 
motifs which are echoed in these actions by the church and the nobility of 

Pope Gregory VII 

Even to his contemporaries Gregory VII was known as the warlike pope who 
turned the ‘soldiery of Saint Peter’ into a tool of generalship. This soldiery 
corresponded to the military retinue of a German bishop, or the contingents 
raised by French bishops to defend the Peace of God. The only difference 
was that Gregory gathered his feudal soldiery from a wider geographical area. 
From an ideological viewpoint this mirrored the desire of the reforming papacy 
to extend its control over all Christendom; and it was necessary because the 
nobility in the environs of Rome was often hostile to the reformers. 

This comparison with the structure of episcopal regiments explains why 
Gregory often demanded military intervention without making any particular 
promises in return. This also applied to war against the heathen. Thus, when 
in 1074 Gregory made a ‘crusading plan’ to come to the aid of the Christians 
of Constantinople, under threat from the Turks, he was slow to promise any 
spiritual rewards. He turned first to the French princes, who had sworn an 
oath of assistance to St Peter’s chair. He promised them a rather imprecise 
reward through the chief apostles ( Reg. 1.46). In his general crusading appeal 
of 1 March 1074 {Reg. 1.49) he said that western Christians had a duty to offer 
their lives ‘for the liberation of their brethren’ ( pro liberatione fratrum ). For by 
so doing they would, in the words of the first Epistle of John (3:16), be following 
Christ: ‘hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for 
us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren’. Making war on the 
heathen in support of Byzantium was a fulfilment of the Christian command to 
love one’s neighbour and the mark of a follower of Christ. From this, Gregory 
could, while making no promises, derive the certainty that soldiers in such a 
war could earn eternal reward from God. 

The idea that love of one’s (beleaguered) neighbour could be expressed by 
taking up arms in his defence was not, in Gregory’s view, confined to wars in 
the interests of the church. If it was permissible to fight for one’s own country, 
it followed that it was also justifiable to fight for eastern Christendom. Fighting 
for Christ must indeed be more meritorious, ‘for if, as some say, it is a noble 
thing to die for our country, it is far nobler and a truly praiseworthy thing 

32 Mansi 19, col. 882: propter honorem Christi et sanctae crucis gloriam, ut . . . nobis de barbaris per 
crucis triumphum det victoriam’. 

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War, peace and the Christian order 199 

to give our corruptible flesh for Christ, who is life eternal’. 33 Gregory had no 
qualms about using Horace’s famous line in praise of dying for one’s country 
(Carmina 3.2.13): he had no objection to fighting for secular ends. 

In 1080, therefore, Gregory supported Robert Guiscard’s expedition against 
Byzantium, when the Norman duke attempted to set a monk who claimed 
to be Michael VII upon the imperial throne. Gregory considered this to be a 
just war, because Michael had been unjustly dethroned. Robert’s and Michael’s 
soldiers must ‘be truly loyal to them, as is fitting for Christians, and in all 
their deeds have the fear and love of God before their eyes, and persist in good 
works’. 34 The secular power, when fighting for a just cause, had a right to 
support. To give it was a Christian duty. 

From 1076, Gregory’s pontificate was overshadowed by his quarrel with 
Henry IV. The appearance of two rival kings and one antipope turned the 
quarrel into open war. Gregory considered himself obliged to defend justice. He 
made this into a slogan which could also be used to justify the wars of a secular 
ruler. As recently as 1075 he had congratulated Henry IV on his victory over 
the Saxons, who had unjustly ( iniuste ) opposed him. Henry should remember 
to defend the honour and justice of God above all things, and conduct his war 
as a punitive expedition ‘for the sake of justice’ ( causa iustitiae-, Reg. 111.7). For 
although Gregory sanctioned ‘secular’ wars for justice, he was disappointed 
that so few men were ready to fight in the cause of St Peter. Driven out of 
Rome by Henry IV, he spent the last few months of his pontificate in appeals 
to Christendom for help and in bitter lamentation. Many indeed were willing 
to face death for their earthly lords, but not for the Lord in heaven. 35 In this 
appeal, and in many others, Gregory promised that the man who took arms 
for the church would gain absolution from his sins ( absolutio peccatorum). This 
was by way of an inducement; central to his thinking was the idea that soldiers 
had a duty to offer such service. 

People should care more for the truth and for their neighbours than for their 
own interests. Laymen should defend the former in the world with whatever 
means were available to them. Therefore, Gregory could consider entry into 
the cloister as a flight from responsibility. He harshly censored Abbot Hugh of 
Cluny for receiving Duke William of Burgundy into his monastery: ‘Where 
are those who willingly face dangers out of love for God, withstand the godless 

33 Gregory vn, Epistolae vagantes , no. 5: quia si pulchrum est, ut quidam dicunt, pro patria mori, 
pulcherrimum est ac ualde gloriosum carnem morticinam pro Christo dare, qui est aeterna uita 
(text and trans. Cowdrey (1972), pp. 12-13). 

34 Reg. viii. 6: et rectam fidem, sicut decet christianos, circa illos servare, in omnibus actibus suis 
timorem Dei et amorem prae oculis habere et in bonis operibus perseverare’ (p. 524). 

35 Epistolae vagantes , no. 54, ed. Cowdrey, p. 132. Similarly Reg. ix.21, but with a distinctly negative 
attitude towards fighting for a secular overlord. 

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and do not fear to suffer death for justice and the truth? See, those who seem 
to fear or to love God flee from the wars of Christ, set aside the salvation of 
their brethren and, loving themselves alone, seek for peace and quiet.’ 36 When 
the countess Matilda of Tuscany wished to enter a nunnery, he ordered her to 
remain in the world, and not to abandon her subjects ‘seeking the salvation of 
your own soul alone. For love seeketh not itself.’ 37 

Gregory saw armed defence of the Christian world order as a fulfilment of 
the command to love one’s neighbour and a potential mark of the follower 
of Christ. This duty was incumbent not only on kings, but also on every 
nobleman capable of bearing arms. Soldiers who fell in the performance of 
this duty merited eternal salvation, as long as they were not in a state of sin. 
However, Gregory did not see the wars of the reforming papacy as a chance for 
martyrdom or a kind of penance. He was still far removed from these elements 
of crusading propaganda. 

Polemical and canonical writings 

Matilda gave military assistance to Gregory. Her supporters, such as Anselm 
of Lucca, John of Mantua and Bonizo of Sutri, defended Gregory’s conviction 
that armed force could be employed on the church’s behalf. This concentration 
on the church’s wars was a consequence of the political situation. But every 
argument which was advanced to justify them also conferred legitimacy on 
warlike actions by the secular power, if it was acting in pursuance of truth and 

The popes were not the only ones to undertake the religious justification of 
war. During the earlier Saxon rebellion against Henry IV, both sides tried to 
bolster their actions with religious arguments. In 1073, the Saxons threatened 
the king with a ‘just war’ ( iustum bellum) if he did not accede to their demands; 
they would fight ‘for the church of God, the Christian faith and also for 
their freedom’ ( pro aecclesia Dei, pro fide Christiana, pro libertate etiam sua). 
Rudolf of Rheinfelden, who was chosen as rival king by the opposition in 
1076, was urged to wage ‘the war of the Lord’ ( bellum Domini) against Henry. 38 
The vocabulary used to justify this war is very similar to that used by Gregory 


36 Reg. vi. 17: ‘Ubi sunt, qui se sponte pro amore Dei opponant periculis, resistant impiis et pro iustitia 
et veritate non timeant mortem subire? Ecce qui Deum videntur timere vel amare, de bello Christi 
fugiunt, salutem fratrum postponunt et se ipsos tantum amantes quietem requirunt’ (p. 23). 

37 Reg. 1.47: ut tuae solius animae saluti provideres. Caritas enim . . . non quae sua sunt querit (pp. 

7 I_ 2). 

38 Lampert of Hersfeld, Annales, years 1073, 1076, pp. 152, 181. For the following, ibid. pp. 222-3 (year 

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War, peace and the Christian order 


According to Lampert of Hersfeld, the king’s side took much the same line. 
After the victory over the Saxons on the River Unstrut (1075), they attempted 
belatedly to give the war a religious colouring. Archbishop Siegfried of Mainz 
excommunicated the Saxons retrospectively for earlier misdeeds. Henry’s army 
was told that it could continue to fight, and kill, without sin or ecclesiastical 
punishment. Lambert’s account is probably invented, but for that very reason 
it reflects a wider concept. The question whether a man ought to be punished 
for killing an excommunicated person had been extensively discussed by the 
reformers. In about 1084-9, Bernold of Constance had refused to demand 
heavy penalties in such cases. He acknowledged that the killer was motivated 
by ‘zeal for God’ ( zelus Dei) and was fighting ‘for the needs of the church’ 
( pro ecclesiastica necessitate). But Bernold assumed that killing could seldom be 
blameless. Similarly, Pope Urban II spoke of an ‘ambiguity’ ( duplicitas ) which 
made the penance debatable. Both seem to shrink from the idea that such 
killing was meritorious, as Manegold of Lautenbach had declared. 39 In reality, 
however, they are introducing an objective criterion into a subjective debate. 
Manegold had said that the defence of the church - either against the heathen 
or against supporters of Henry IV - was sufficient grounds for considering 
such killing blameless. Bernold and Urban started, rather, from the intentions 
of the killer. It was true that the deed itself was justified. But the doer of it 
could either be showing his zeal for God and the church, or be inspired by 
such motives as hatred and greed (for plunder), for which he must then do 

Pope Paschal II concluded this debate in a letter to the knights of San 
Gimignano. They were to persist in obedience and service to the church. If 
they happened to kill an ‘impious’ ( sacrilegus ) man ‘in the defence of justice’ 
( pro defensione iustitiae), they would not be guilty of murder. The aim of the 
war gave grounds for assuming that the soldiers had acted in good conscience. 
They must do penance only if they appeared to have a ‘careless attitude’ ( levi - 
tas). Paschal makes little of this; he concentrates much more on promising 
the obedient soldiers absolution from their sins and eternal life. Paschal was 
certainly thinking of the church’s wars, but the struggle for justice also justified 
wars waged by a secular ruler. For Paschal also refers to a fundamental principle 
of Roman law {Dig. ‘To repel force with force is permitted by all laws 
and legal principles.’ 40 

The church’s appeal to armed force in pursuit of its own ends led logically 
to the notion that the secular power was entitled to do the same. Guilt and sin 

59 Bernold of Constance, Libellus v, MGH Libelli de life n, p. 98; Urban II, PL 151, col. 394; Manegold 
of Lautenbach, Ad Gebehardum liber, chs. 38 and 40, MGH Libelli de life 1, pp. 3 76-7, 380-1. 

40 PL 163, col. 366: Vim vi repellere omnes leges omniaque jura permittunt’. 

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did not result from mere participation in war: they were the consequence of 
unworthy motives and actual misdeeds. This was the outcome of a discussion 
which had not centred on war as such. Henry’s supporters only disputed the 
idea that pope and church could undertake their own defence. That the king 
had the right to wage war was to them self-evident. The reforming papacy, on 
the other hand, formulated war aims which were given priority over the king’s 
prerogative: justice and the protection of a ‘right’ way of life according to the 
dictates of church and religion. Those aims alone justified the use of arms, and 
the soldier’s duty was to them and not to the king. This orientation of war 
on predetermined objectives belongs with other, simultaneous processes: the 
development of a chivalric ethic and the functionalising of royal power. 

The quarrel reached its zenith after 1080, when Gregory excommunicated 
Henry IV and his supporters for the second time. Gregory was accused of 
having legitimised rebellion against Henry by absolving his subjects from their 
oath of allegiance - while at the same time trying to create a new loyalty to the 
rival king Rudolf of Rheinfelden. To those who would stand ‘loyally’ beside 
Rudolf he promised ‘absolution from all their sins and their [the apostles’] 
blessing in this life and in the future’. 41 This was effectively a licence to kill and 
murder. Gregory’s opponents saw his promised absolution, in particular, as an 
irresponsible excusing of sins, as if obedience to the pope was an insurance 
against sinning. 

The Gregorian party rejected such arguments and justified the reformers’ 
involvement in military activity by blaming it on Henry’s depravity. The oath of 
allegiance should be valid only when made to a ruler who fulfilled his duties. 
Henry was seeking to destroy the church, so war against him had become 
self-defence. Especially after the election of Guibert of Ravenna as antipope, 
Henry had to be considered a heretic and schismatic, and as such had to be 
pursued by secular and military means, in accordance with the traditions of 
the church. Whoever tolerated such injustice became guilty of it himself. War 
against Henry was justified by the circumstances and arguments in and by 
which it was waged, and which told against the formal duty of obedience. 

Because the Gregorians’ arguments were drawn from late antiquity, they 
tended ipso facto to justify war-making by the secular power. From the tradition 
of the old church they took the idea that the church’s needs ought to be defended 
by force of arms, and that it was the duty of the emperor to undertake this 
defence. That is to say, their authorities supplied the Gregorians with arguments 
to justify force of arms, killing and war, but not with the idea that the church 
itself could take up arms. That conclusion they drew for themselves. 

41 Reg. vii. 14a: ‘omnibus sibi fideliter adhaerentibus absolutionem omnium peccatorum vestramque 
benedictionem in hac vita et in futuro vestra fretus fiducia largior’ (p. 486). 

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War, peace and the Christian order 


By drawing on the writings of Augustine, the Gregorians evaded the notion 
that war was intrinsically sinful. This process emerges most clearly from the 
collection of canons by Anselm of Lucca. In Bookxm Anselm gathers canons 
relating to ‘vengeance and justified persecution’ (de vindicta et de persecutione 
iusta). 42 Here he examines the morality of war. Anselm stresses that blood- 
thirstiness and similar motives for war are unacceptable: only love of one’s 
neighbour can justify the use of force. Hence, the aim of war is not to destroy 
the enemy, but to turn him away from sin and save his soul at least - even if 
this involves killing him! 

In one of his own sermons, Anselm defines love as ‘the root and foundation 
of all the virtues’. 43 It seeks not its own good, but that of its neighbour. This care 
for one’s neighbour reveals a lover of God and follower of Christ. In Anselm’s 
collection of canons, ‘love’ is the inner attitude which decides whether a deed 
is to be accounted to the doer for good or for ill: your attitude gives its name 
to your deed’ (xm.27). 44 Objectively ‘good’ deeds alone are insufficient to 
gain merit with God. Anselm separates the external deed from the attitude 
of the doer; each must be judged on its own. Thus he avoids the concept 
that killing in a just war demands penance, because guilt springs from one’s 
mental state. The biblical commands which appear to prohibit the use of force 
refer not to the external deed, but to the intention. War and peace are not 
irreconcilable opposites, for only in war can one strive for peace, and in war one 
must be ‘peace-seeking’ ( pacificus ), so as to share in the biblical blessing upon 
the peacemakers. 45 With love one can, even in war, display the fundamental 
Christian virtue which opens the way to everlasting salvation. 

Love ought to govern the conduct of every man; but his actual deeds must 
depend on his status and its attendant duties. From the universally applicable 
law of love there sprang an ethic of social class. Anselm, following Gregory 
I, asserts that the ‘highest merit’ ( summa laus) of the soldier is to obey the 
demands of the state (xm.9). However, his chief concern is to prove that 
the church is entitled to use force against its enemies. The justification for 
this lies in the ideal love of Christ. Christ converted St Paul through force 
and fear, yet ‘Who can love us more than Christ, who gave his life for his 
sheep?’ 46 None the less, Anselm still thought it was the ruler’s duty to defend the 

42 Edition of bookxm in Pasztor (1987), pp. 405-21. See ibid., p. 376 n. 5, for doubts about Anselm’s 
authorship of books vm— xm of the collection. 

43 Pasztor (1965), p. 96: ‘Radix est et fundamentum virtutum omnium caritas.’ 

44 xm. 27; Pdsztor (1987), p. 419: ‘affectus tuus nomen imponit operi tuo’. 

45 xm.3, p. 406; xm.4, p. 408. 

46 xm. 16, p. 412: ‘Quis nos potest amplius amare quam Christus, qui animam suam posuit pro ovibus 

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The Investiture contest, however, forced the Gregorians to ask the nobility 
for military assistance; in Italy they had to appeal first and foremost to Matilda 
of Tuscany. At her request, John of Mantua wrote a commentary on the Song 
of Songs, intended to strengthen Matilda in her battle for the church. Here, 
too, the use of warlike force is justified through love. 47 It is not enough to 
live for oneself, even in obedience to God. Love demands that we transcend 
ourselves for the salvation of all mankind. Matilda is seen as the bride in the 
Song of Songs in that she is vowed to contemplation, but also wields the sword 
against the enemies of the church and so becomes a ‘catholic soldier’ ( miles 
catholica). The contemplative life, otherwise designated for monks, can be led 
by a lay person in time of war. Contemplation and love are interdependent. 

Bonizo of Sutri, in his Liber de vita Christiana, lays greater stress on the role of 
the king. He must be obeyed: rebellion will be punished by the church. Soldiers 
have a twofold obligation: they ‘must so serve the secular power that they do 
not work against the Christian religion’. 48 They must be ready to give their lives 
in defence of their lord or ‘for the survival of the state’ ( pro statu rei publicae). 
Hence they should fight against schismatics and heretics, as well as defend the 
poor, widows and orphans - duties which originally devolved upon the king. 
Bonizo explains that these are duties which soldiers must fulfil without a direct 
command from their lord. He is laying down the basis of a chivalric ethic: 
loyalty to the king and defence of the church and those who cannot defend 
themselves. In the middle of the twelfth century, John of Salisbury connected 
this with the motif of love of one’s neighbour and the imitation of Christ. It 
was the knight’s duty to ‘shed his blood for the brethren and, if necessary, lay 
down his life’. 49 

The state of the argument over war at the end of the eleventh century is 
documented in the canonical collections of Ivo of Chartres. Ivo was closely 
connected with the Reformers. As a French bishop, he had no part in their 
military disputes, and in his chapter on the problems of war and the use of 
force, he shows no desire to justify actual political activities by the popes. 
Ivo rejects the tradition that penance must be done for killing in war. His 
last collection, the Panormia, contains no canon which prescribes any such 
penance. The penance which Urban II had recommended for the killing of an 
excommunicate is not mentioned in this work (vm.ii), although Ivo includes 
it in his Decretum (X.54). 

47 On what follows see John of Mantua, In cantica canticorum 5.2 (pp. 104-5); (pp- 5 1-2 ); 2 - I 5 (p- 

48 Bonizo of Sutri, Liber de vita Christiana, vii.28, ed. Perels (1930), 11. p. 248: ‘sic militent terrenae 
potestati, ut Christianae non obvient religioni’. 

49 John of Salisbury, Policraticus vi.8: ‘pro fratribus . . . fundere sanguinem et, si opus est, animam 
ponere’: ed. Webb (1909), vol. 2, p. 23. 

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War, peace and the Christian order 


In the Panormia Ivo makes a general statement of his opinions. In the last 
book he deals with the misdeeds of lay people. For his first canon (viii.i) he 
borrows from Augustine the idea that killing is not always a sin. A soldier or 
holder of a ‘public’ office may kill without sin if he has authority to do so, 
and is acting ‘on behalf of others or of the state’ ( pro aliis vel pro civitate). 
Because it is forbidden to kill with ‘private power’ ( privata potestate), or to kill 
an innocent man, Ivo’s next chapter includes a prohibition of suicide. The rest 
of this chapter shows that unlicensed and sinful killing is a priori limited to 
the ‘private’ sphere. Killing in the ‘public’ and ‘civic’ sphere - the death penalty 
or war - follows other criteria. They contribute to the internal and external 
maintenance of justice and peace, and are therefore legitimate. 

These ideas had already been formulated by the Gregorian canonists and 
propagandists in the throes of the Investiture Contest. The real persecutors were 
those who treated the church unjustly, not those who fought and punished such 
injustice by force of arms. Ivo removes this argument from its polemical context. 
He stresses the legitimacy of legally constituted punishment, both corporal and 
capital. ‘This is not bloodshed, but service of the laws’, he states, and follows 
this immediately with the definition of the just war from the Etymologies of 
Isidore of Seville (xvm.i.2): ‘That war is just which is waged upon authority, 
to regain property or drive out enemies.’ 50 

Ivo was the first to include this definition in a collection of canons. He 
thereby disentangled war from the problematics of sin and penance. A just 
war is not an injustice, but an attempt to combat injustice. There can be 
objective grounds for deciding whether a war is just or not. It must be absolutely 
necessary, but if it is, then one is always justified in fighting in self-defence, 
and in defence of one’s country and its socio-political order ( leges paternae). 
These ideas of Ivo’s (vm.37) show how superior interests were superseding the 
ideals of the treuga Dei, which prohibited fighting at certain prescribed times. 

Ivo energetically proposes defence of the secular order as the aim of war. 
However, he does not deny the church the right to defend itself. To this end, he 
includes in his collections accounts and letters concerning the warlike activities 
of popes of the Carolingian era, who had undertaken to protect the Roman 
church against the Christian Lombards and the Muslim Saracens. Ivo promises 
heaven to the soldier who falls in battle ‘for the truth of the faith, the saving 
of his country and the defence of Christians’. 51 He emphasises not the struggle 
against the heathen, but the defence of the Christian order. If a war was focused 
on defence and justice it was possible to participate in it without sin. The 

50 Ivo of Chartres, Panormia vm.53: ‘non est effusio sanguinis, sed legum ministerium’. viii.54 (= Gra- 
tian C.23 q.2 c.i): ‘Justum bellum est quod ex edicto geritur de rebus repetendis, aut propulsandorum 
hostium’ [Gratian: ‘hominum’] causa. PL 161, col. 1315. 

51 Ibid., viii. 30: ‘pro veritate fidei et salvatione patriae ac defensione Christianorum’: PL 161. col. 1311. 

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20 6 


defence of Christendom offered the opportunity to win everlasting salvation. 
A war to reconquer formerly Christian lands could be understood as a just war 
according to Isidore’s definition: it was permissible, but the participants gained 
no religious rewards. 

Ivo’s teaching cannot, therefore, be directly connected with the crusades, 
whose participants were promised religious rewards. Nor does the teaching 
of Gregorian canonists and propagandists lead directly to the crusade, for 
the Gregorians were concerned to defend their reform against their Christian 
opponents. However, there is a possible connection between Ivo’s doctrine of 
war and crusading theory, via the idea that war can be waged for a justice defined 
in religious terms. For as God is the ‘fount of justice’ ( iustitiae fons), killing on 
His orders is just, either in war or as a legal punishment. This passage from 
Augustine’s De civitate Dei (1.17-18, 20-1) begins with a prohibition on suicide. 
Ivo cites it both in his Decretum (x.4) and in the Panormia (vm.2). In both 
collections, however, the notion of killing on God’s orders remains peripheral. 
Ivo heads the chapter with the assertion that both secular and canon law forbid 
the shedding of human blood; but he distinguishes between ‘private’ killing 
and permissible ‘public’ killing. 52 

Gratian, however, heads this passage, ‘Those who have waged war upon 
the authority of God have in no way transgressed the commandment not to 
kill.’ 53 Scarcely half a century after the beginning of the crusades, this citation 
from Augustine gave Gratian the key to integrating the notion of the crusade 
into the theory of the just war. The juristic prerequisites for the just war, 
such as reconquest and punishment, were not sufficient for Gratian to explain 
the crusades. He completed them with the help of a theological axiom from 
Augustine. God is the source of justice; he can initiate and order war and 
killing. Anselm of Lucca had previously opened his canon on war and the use 
of force (xiii.i) with a similar idea from Augustine. Moses was not cruel when 
he dealt out death ‘at the Lord’s command’ ( precepto Domini)-, indeed, he was 
acting ‘with great love’ ( magna dilectione ). 54 

52 The introductory rubric to this chapter in the Decretum comes before x.i, and in the Panormia before 
viii. 1: ‘Omnes leges tam ecclesiasticae quam seculares effusionem humani sanguinis prohibent.’ The 
rubrics printed by Migne {PL 161, col. 691) to Decretum x.2— 4 are not in MS Paris, Biblioth£que 
Nationale lat. 14315 (which has no rubrics). There is no rubric to Panormiavm. 2 in the manuscripts I 
have consulted (viz. Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, lat. 1358; Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale 
Centrale, Conv. soppr. G 1836; Paris, Bibliotheque de P Arsenal, 713). Migne {PL 161, col. 1305) here 
prints the rubric from Gratian C.23 q.5 c.9; at viii.i, col. 1303, the rubric from C.23 q.5 c.8. Thus his 
edition gives a misleading impression. On the development of the rubrics in the manuscripts and 
printed editions of the Panormia see Landau (1982) and Fransen (1987). 

53 C.23 q.5 c.9: ‘Qui Deo auctore bella gesserunt, preceptum non occidendi nequaquam transgressi 

54 P&sztor (1987), p. 405. 

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War, peace and the Christian order 


WAR at god’s command: the crusade 
The crusade in the Holy Land 

Urban II based his appeal for the crusade in 1095 011 the presupposition that, in 
certain circumstances, the church was not bound to consider participation in 
a military campaign as a sin. Indeed, on the planned expedition the crusaders 
would earn spiritual rewards. They gathered under the war-cry ‘God wills 
if, which Urban may have coined himself. He integrated the crusade into a 
theology of war’. In this war the crusaders could directly obey the will of God. 
Logically, therefore, Guibert of Noqent described the crusade as ‘The Deeds 
of God through the Franks’ ( Gesta Dei per Francos) 55 

Such images also stamp other descriptions of the First Crusade. To the 
crusaders themselves it seemed that God was fighting on their side, and they 
described themselves as ‘the army of God’ ( exercitus Dei ). 56 The difficulties of 
the crusading expedition made the victory seem miraculous, and strengthened 
the conviction that they were marching according to God’s will, and with His 

God’s will, which must be obeyed, did not mean defending the church 
against enemies within. The crusaders were bound to fight for their Christian 
brethren in the east, reconquer their lands from the Muslims, and thus extend 
the dominion of Christendom. In the early days of his pontificate, Urban II 
had already said that wars to reconquer formerly Christian lands were the will 
of God. He gave contemporary examples: the Norman conquest of Sicily and 
the Spanish Reconquista. Urban saw the success of these campaigns against 
the Muslims as a sign that God had once again turned His face towards the 
Christians, who had long ago lost His favour. The reconquest meant that times 
were changing, as Urban repeated in 1091 and subsequently with reference to 
the Prophet Daniel (2:21): ‘he changeth the times and the seasons; he removeth 
kings, and setteth up kings’. 57 God was now giving Christendom the opportu- 
nity to act on His behalf. He was inspiring them to war, and fought Himself 
with the help of the Christian princes. The concept of the crusade as ‘the deeds 
of God through the Christians’ goes back to Urban. He did not confine it to 
expeditions to the east. After he had launched the crusade, in 1098, he explained 
in a letter to the bishop of Huesca that God ‘in our days has indeed fought the 
Turks in Asia, and in Europe the Moors, with the might of the Christians’. 58 

55 RHC Occ. iv, p. 121. 

56 See Hagenmeyer (ed.), Epistolae et chartae, index under exercitus Christi, Dei, Domini. 

57 PL 151, col. 332 (for Tarragona, i July 1091): ‘ipse transfert regna et mutat tempora’. See Becker 
(1988), pp. 337-53; Ringel (1987). 

58 PL 151, col. 504: ‘Nostris siquidem diebus in Asia Turcos, in Europa Mauros Christianorum viribus 

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Urban’s ideas imply a negative judgement on the past. It was because of 
their sins that the Christians had lost their lands to the Muslims. In the twelfth 
century, again, defeats in the Holy Land, and finally the loss of Jerusalem, 
were blamed on the sinfulness of Christendom. An expedition to reverse these 
losses had to be prefaced by penance and repentance in Christendom, which 
would ensure that God’s help was restored to them. The crusade demonstrated 
a fresh turning to God. Thus in 1095 Urban called on the knights of Europe to 
participate in God’s plans, which had already been revealed in Spain and Sicily, 
and extend them to eastern Christendom. For this struggle he promised them 
the crusading indulgence, which, together with the crusading vow, became one 
of the main distinguishing marks of the crusades. 

Urban laid down precise conditions for the indulgence. It was granted not 
for warlike deeds in themselves, but for one’s personal attitude. Only those who 
went to Jerusalem ‘solely from devotion to God’, to liberate the church, would 
receive it. 59 The same expedition, undertaken for material reasons, earned no 
reward. According to the traditional definitions, which Ivo of Chartres was 
currently in process of restating, the struggle to reconquer Jerusalem counted 
as a just war. Only the attitude of the participants would make this just war 
into a holy war, in which they could earn spiritual advantages. 

The content of the indulgence was just as clearly defined. Participation in 
the crusade would count as fulfilment of an ecclesiastical penance for previous 
misdeeds. This transformation of penance into crusade implied a spiritualis- 
ing of the pending war. Hitherto, penance had meant withdrawing from the 
‘world’. Since the turn of the millennium, the sinner had been reconciled with 
the church immediately after confession and before performing his penance. 
He willingly took upon himself the attendant penance: it was a compensation, 
a means to salvation, and a self-punishment. Through it, the penitent showed 
the church that he had turned back to God. fio He could now demonstrate that 
same return by going on the crusade. By taking the crusade upon himself as 
a work of penance, he offered his life for a cause that was pleasing to God. 
There could be little doubt that the greatness of the work was adequate to the 

This turning to God explains why people soon began to speak, albeit vaguely, 
about the remission of sins ( remissio peccatorum) earned by the crusader. Urban 
himself used this vocabulary. One thing was indispensable, both for rightful 
penance and for the remission of sins: penitent acknowledgement of one’s guilt 

59 Somerville (1972), p. 74: ‘Quicumque pro sola devotione, non pro honoris vel pecunie adeptione, 
ad liberandam ecclesiam Dei Hierusalem profectus fuerit, iter illud pro omni penitentia ei repute- 
tur.’ On the indulgence of Clermont as a transformation of penance see Mayer (1995), pp. 28-31; 
Poschmann (1948), pp. 54—8. 

60 See Anciaux (1949), pp. 29-31, 52-3. 

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War, peace and the Christian order 


through confession. In it, the sinner’s change of attitude was perfected and he 
was reconciled with God and the church. And then, in the crusade, he worked 
for God, Who rewarded him by excusing him from the temporal penalties for 
sin. The theology of the effect of indulgences on the temporal punishment for 
sin laid down by God was not precisely established until the thirteenth century, 
but the idea that the crusading indulgence was not merely the transformation 
of an ecclesiastical penance, but also a transcendental work in the eyes of God, 
was part of crusading ideology from the beginning. It was linked with the 
notion that crusaders who were killed passed directly into eternal life, like the 
martyrs of the early church. 

The crusade integrated the traditional chivalric and warlike way of life into 
the struggle to save one’s soul; formerly, entering a monastery had been the 
surest way to do this. Now, wrote Guibert of Nogent, God had created a new 
means to salvation: ‘holy battles’ ( praelia sacra). No longer was it necessary to 
turn monk and leave this world; the order of knights ( ordo equestris ) and the 
common people ( vulgus ) could win God’s grace by performing their allotted 
tasks (ex suo ipsorum officio ). 61 Even after the failure of the Second Crusade, 
Otto of Freising, writing his chronicle of the First, continued to use similar cat- 
egories. In his time (he opined) the world order had turned upside down, and 
a ‘new kind of soldiery’ ( novum militiae genus) had arisen. In the war against 
the enemies of the cross, these new knights seemed ‘from their behaviour and 
way of life to be monks, rather than soldiers ’. 62 Here Otto is referring to the 
Templars, the oldest military order, for whom Bernard of Clairvaux had coined 
the expression nova militia. But Otto considers that this community effectively 
came into existence with the First Crusade, at a time when the political disorder 
in Christendom brought about by the struggle between father and son, between 
the emperor Henry IV and the rebellious Henry V, was only too apparent. The 
knights who had banded together in the order of the Templars, in the Holy 
Land, dissociating themselves from the civil war in the empire, were another 
sign - together with the contemporary ecclesiastical reforms - that the ideal of 
the civitas Dei was drawing nearer. Those crusaders who, unlike the Templars, 
had remained in the secular world also bore witness to the fact in their own way. 
The crusade offered lay people their own way to salvation. It was part of a devel- 
opment which gave them an assured place in the world from a religious point of 
view. About the middle of the century, Gerhoh of Reichersberg reduced this to 
a general formula: people from all stations in life could find in Holy Scripture 
a rule which would lead them to salvation. Therefore it was not necessary to 
become a monk and renounce the world; one had renounced it already, when 

61 Gesta Dei per Francos, chap. 2; RHC Occ. iv, p. 124. 

62 Otto of Freising, Chronica vu.9: Vita et conversatione non milites, sed monachi videantur: ed. 

Hofmeister (1912), p. 320. 

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abjuring the Devil at one’s baptism. This also applied to knights who did not 
go on crusade, but fulfilled their military duties in their own country. 3 

The connection with the indulgence made the war, the Christian response 
to the oppression of the Holy Land, into a sign of God’s grace. He had made 
the crusade into a means of salvation for sinful man. Bernard of Clairvaux 
stresses this idea in his crusading appeal (epistle 363). In 1187, after the loss of 
Jerusalem, Gregory VIII made a crusading appeal, Audita tremendi, in which 
he said that God was putting Christians to the test to see if they were prepared 
to do penance and risk their lives for their brethren. According to Innocent 
III, the crusade was God’s demand for the service which was owing to him; 
anyone who refused it would earn damnation at the Day of Judgement ( Reg. 
xvi. 28). 

Thus the crusading movement belonged to a context in which God showed 
Himself as the Lord of history and offered crusaders the chance to earn salva- 
tion in a war authorised by Him. The crusaders’ response to this offer from 
God must be determined by religion. It must consist of repentance, penance 
and pilgrimage - in a word, following Christ. This would be expressed in a 
willingness to fight for Christ’s cause and the Holy Land, which was seen as 
Christ’s heritage. The crusader must offer his life for his oppressed brethren in 
the east, as Christ had offered his own for mankind. 

It is not solely because of its religious foundations that the crusade conforms 
only approximately to the criteria for the just war. One motif occurs repeat- 
edly: the injustice which the Muslims have done to Christ must be avenged. 
The definition of a just war as a punishment for injustice thereby changes its 
character. The injustice suffered by the living and eternal God through the 
occupation of His heritage by the Muslims happened afresh each day. The just 
war hinged no longer on political events, but on a conviction of faith. 

One token of this was the persecution of Jews which accompanied the 
crusades. If the crusade was meant to punish the enemies of Christ, it seemed 
‘logical’ to start by punishing those who were blamed for the death of Christ. 
The church leadership mostly opposed this, as did Bernard of Claivaux during 
the Second Crusade (epistle 363). That the Jews had behaved peaceably, which 
made persecuting them unjust, was of subordinate importance in Bernard’s 
eyes. His arguments were theological. The Bible said that the Jews would be 
converted before the Last Judgement; until then they must atone for their 
crimes by their miserable lives, and must witness to biblical truths. Bernard 
sought to guide the crusaders’ zeal for God into sensible channels - and thereby 
shows the religious impetus behind the persecution of the Jews. Obviously 
considerations of the just war were not sufficient to curb such excesses. 

63 Gerhoh, De aedificio Dei, chap. 43; PL 194, cols. 1300-4. See Congar (1968), p. 103. 

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War, peace and the Christian order 


None the less, the idea of the just war remained influential in crusading 
ideology. After the First Crusade (which, being the first comprehensive war 
against the heathen, required special religious justification) it gained ground. 
For the later crusades could be seen as defending or regaining the lands which 
had been conquered in 1098-9. Those were typical objectives for a just war. 
Bernard of Clairvaux expressly points out, in his crusading epistle, that the 
renewed aggression by the heathen must be countered by force of arms: ‘Force 
must be repelled by force.’ 64 Seldom is the crusade so explicitly reduced to a 
juristic concept. Most crusading propaganda is limited to topical descriptions 
of Muslim atrocities and laments for the lost areas of the Holy Land. It is an 
appeal for help and a call for punishment and revenge. 

That the crusade was a just war was seldom disputed, as is shown by the 
frequent comparisons made with baronial disputes. The crusade was an oppor- 
tunity to divert bellicose feelings on to a suitable field, instead of letting them 
rampage at home. Unlike the crusades, baronial feuds were not licensed as ‘just 
wars’. The crusades propagated the belief that there were differing degrees of 
legitimacy in warfare. Here, the crusading movement merged with a tendency 
among theoreticians of the just war to say that only the king could legitimately 
use force and make war. They found the barons’ feudal ‘right’ to make war 
morally unacceptable; twelfth-century monarchs confined it within their own 
peacekeeping schemas. 

The idea that the king’s wars were just constituted a background against 
which the crusades could be shown in a yet more positive light. Guibert of 
Nogent opens his history of the crusades with a retrospect on previous wars. 
In antiquity they had been characterised by a lust for domination; but there 
had also been justified wars to defend freedom and the res publica, especially 
against heathen enemies. Apart from these, only wars to protect the church 
were justifiable, and Guibert fits the crusades into that context. Without the 
assumption that there is such a thing as a just war there would be no basis on 
which to justify the crusades. Only on this assumption could the crusade be 
seen as a chance to earn spiritual rewards. The crusade was a just war which had 
been elevated to the status of a holy war. One of the consequences of this view 
of the crusades was that a king’s war could no longer be morally condemned. 
Neither the crusades nor the king’s just war were conducted, as were baronial 
feuds, out of ‘self-interest’. 

To assist eastern Christendom and reconquer Jerusalem were the objectives 
of the First Crusade. The Holy Land was also the fulcrum of later crusades in 
the twelfth century. The crusading indulgence, which characterised this form 

64 Bernard of Clairvaux, Letter 363 : ‘oportet vim vi repellere’; Opera vm, ed. Leclercq and Rochais 
(1977). P- 3i7- 

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of holy war, depended on a willingness to enter into the service of God. The 
mentality of the crusader was crucial here, not the political aim of the war. 
Hence, the character of the indulgence implied that it would be possible not 
only to appeal for crusades in the Holy Land, but also to transfer the crusading 
ideal to other struggles in the service of the church. Such attempts were made 
immediately after the First Crusade. They did not imply any ‘perversion’ of 
the crusading ideal, but sprang from a concept which belonged directly to the 
crusades: that spiritual advantages could be won from a war on behalf of the 

Crusades outside the Holy Land 

The first area outside the Holy Land to which the crusading ideal was extended 
was Spain. Urban II himself considered the two theatres of war as one: the 
Spanish knights ought to fight the Muslims in their own country, not in the 
Holy Land. Urbans successors continued this policy. Obviously Jerusalem had 
a great attraction, but the popes unequivocally considered war against the 
heathen to be as meritorious in Spain as in the Holy Land. Logically, therefore, 
in the first half of the twelfth century those who fought the heathen in the 
Iberian peninsula repeatedly obtained the same indulgence as was promised in 
the struggle for Jerusalem. 

The idea that any war against the heathen, on any of the battle-fronts of 
western Christendom, was a crusade was expressed most clearly by Eugenius 
III. When the princes of north Germany planned war on the Wends, with 
the approval of Bernard of Clairvaux and within the context of the Second 
Crusade, Eugenius granted the same indulgence as for the expedition to the 
Holy Land. Thus he inaugurated the concept of an all-embracing war against 
the heathen. God had willed that the struggle against the unbeliever should 
be waged in diverse places: in the Holy Land, in Spain, and finally east of the 
Elbe . 65 

Eugenius, and with him Bernard of Clairvaux, attributed the extension 
of the crusades to regions outside the Holy Land to the will of God. They 
echoed Urban II’s idea that times were changing. The personal objective of 
the crusader, the heavenly Jerusalem, could be reached by fighting for its 
earthly equivalent - put also in other places. Crusaders from England, Flan- 
ders and the lower Rhine, on their way to Palestine for the Second Crusade, 
took part in the conquest of Lisbon. The bishop of Oporto had convinced 
them that even if they interrupted their journey to Jerusalem, this would be 
no interruption to their crusade: ‘for it is not praiseworthy to have been in 

6s PL 180, cols. 1023—4, no. 166. 

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War, peace and the Christian order 


Jerusalem, but to have lived well in the meantime. For you cannot come to 
her save through her works. By good works one deserves to win through to 
ones glorious goal.’ 66 The struggle for Jerusalem becomes a metaphor for a 
struggle to serve God, thus it could be separated from the actual, earthly city 
of Jerusalem. 

Since the time of Jerome it had been a topos to distinguish between the 
earthly and heavenly Jerusalems. Immediately after the First Crusade, the same 
distinction helped to transfer the crusading ideal on to other theatres of war. In 
about 1108 there was an appeal which took up the themes of Urban’s preaching 
and called for people to fight the heathen east of the Elbe and settle their lands. 
This offered the chance not only to better one’s material fortunes, but also to 
save one’s soul. In the east of the German empire, says the author, lies ‘our 
Jerusalem’ ( Hierusalem nostra ). 7 The appeal is addressed to one of the leaders 
of the First Crusade, Robert, count of Flanders. After Robert returned from 
the Holy Land, he had been appealed to by Paschal II, who asked him, ‘for 
forgiveness of his sins’ {in remissionem peccatorum), to lead a military expedition 
against Henry IV, the chief of heretics. The struggle against the heretics was, 
like the crusade, a way to the heavenly Jerusalem. 68 

It was during the disputes with Henry IV that the reformers had developed 
the positive view of war in the cause of the church which was part of the 
assumptions behind the crusade. Thus Paschal could transfer crusading motifs 
back to the pursuit of the struggles against Henry IV. The war against heretics 
and other enemies of the church was comparable to a crusade. At the council 
of Pisa (1135), during the papal schism which had begun in 1130, Innocent II 
gave to those who would fight ‘to free the church’ from the antipope Anacletus 
II and his ally, King Roger II of Sicily, the same indulgence as Urban II had 
granted those who had ‘gone to Jerusalem to liberate the Christians’. 69 Fighting 
for liberty, whether it was that of Christians in the Holy Land or that of the 
church in the west, earned the same reward. 

Finally, Innocent III extended the crusading ideal to all wars against enemies 
of the church. From the beginning of his pontificate he planned for a new 
crusade in the east. However, he promised the crusading indulgence for the 
war against Markward of Anweiler, who was threatening papal rights in Sicily, 

66 Hehl (1980), p. 260: ‘quia non Iherosolimis fuisse sed bene interim invixisse laudabile est; non 
enim ad earn nisi per opera eius pervenire potestis. Ex bono opere vero ut ad finem gloriosum quis 
perveniat meretur.’ With indication of the numerous citations from the canonists in the sermon; 
De expugnatione Lixbonensi, ed. David (1936), pp. 78-84. 

67 Text in Wattenbach ‘Handschriftliches’, pp. 624— 6 (p. 626). 68 PL 163, col. 108. 

69 Girgensohn (1972), pp. 1099-1100, chap. 7: ‘Eis autem, qui ... ad liberationem eccle- 
siae . . . perrexerint et in eodem servitio fideliter laboraverint, eadem remissio facta est, quam papa 
Urbanus omnibus proficiscentibus Ierosolimam pro christianorum liberatione in concilio Clare- 
montano constituit.’ 

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and for the struggle against the Albigensians. He retrospectively sanctioned the 
conquest of Christian Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade, considered 
the war against the heathen in the Iberian peninsula as a crusade, and allowed 
crusading vows to be fulfilled by lighting in Lithuania. 

It was not only the Jerusalem indulgence which linked such crusades with 
the crusades in the east. Crusades against Christians were also bolstered with 
ideas drawn from the heathen wars. Innocent III explained the crusade against 
Markward on the grounds that he was hindering the crusading expedition to 
the east {Reg. 1.555/8). He had allied himself with the Sicilian Saracens against 
the rightful ruler of the island, Frederick II. If Sicily were to fall into Markward’s 
hands, it would end any hopes of regaining Jerusalem {Reg. 11. 212/21). Earlier, 
during the campaign by Lothar III and Innocent II against Roger II of Sicily, the 
presence of Muslims among Roger’s troops had been exploited for propaganda 
purposes. Twelfth-century suspicions of the Byzantine empire were based on 
the accusation that Byzantium was hindering and thwarting the crusades. As 
early as 1107, Bohemond had been able to mount a campaign against the 
Christian empire and proclaim it as part of a crusade. The idea of linking a 
crusade in the east with a war against Byzantium became a familiar one. In 
1204 it actually happened. 

However, crusades against Christians were not designed exclusively to give 
military and political protection to crusades in the east. The struggle for 
Jerusalem depended on the religious transformation of western Christendom, 
which brought forth the idea that the activities of internal enemies of the faith 
and the church were no longer to be tolerated. This is why the crusading move- 
ment so readily combined with persecution of the Jews as the supposedly ‘real’ 
enemies of Christ. After the Second Crusade, Peter the Venerable ranked the 
struggle against the ‘false Christians’ who persecuted the church higher than 
that against the heathen who did not know God. With similar arguments he 
called on the lord Humbert of Beaujeu to leave the Templar order and devote 
himself to defending the regional church of Burgundy (epistles 172-3). Thus 
Humbert would pass from the knighthood of the Templars into a knighthood 
of equal value. In the same way, instead of crusading against the Muslims in 
the east, or other pagans, one could crusade against Christians who were seen 
as enemies of the church: schismatics and heretics. Such undertakings were 
part of the self-purification of western Christendom. 

The crusade in the east was the standard of comparison by which all other 
crusading expeditions must be measured, if they were to earn the Jerusalem in- 
dulgence. Together with the political criteria which always underlay appeals for 
crusades against Christians, this led in the thirteenth century to loud criticism 
of such crusades. The core of that criticism was that the papacy was pursuing 
its own interests, instead of guarding the needs of all of Christendom. 

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2I 5 

War, peace and the Christian order 

Criticism of the crusade, the knightly orders and the chivalric ethic 

Criticism of the crusades in the twelfth century was aimed at the spiritual ideals 
of the crusading movement. The morality of the crusaders, it was said, did not 
match their religious objectives. The sins of the crusaders were responsible for 
the failure of particular crusading endeavours. Such criticism became partic- 
ularly insistent after the disaster of the Second Crusade. Political accusations 
could be included in this type of criticism, as when the greed of the Templars 
was blamed for errors during the Second Crusade. The crusading ideal itself 
was not attacked by such critics, for they clung to the basic attitude that the 
crusade meant a turning to God and a change of moral outlook which were 
shown in the struggle for God’s cause. Hence, critical observation of individual 
events during the crusades, as well as crusading appeals, could supply elements 
in the formulation of a chivalric ethic. Critics of the crusade did not attack its 
fundamental principles until they began to cast doubt on the idea that such 
warlike activity could represent the will and commandment of God. 

Some uncertainty as to whether the crusade was really the way to ensure 
personal salvation was aroused by crusaders who returned from the First Cru- 
sade and then entered monasteries. War, as an expression of the religious life, 
remained problematic. The connection between a monastic existence and war- 
like activity, as demonstrated by the Templars at the beginning of the twelfth 
century, met with criticisms and doubts which affected even members of the 
new community. Warlike activity seemed to be a bar to a higher form of the 
religious life which was evidenced by monasticism. 

The Templars found special encouragement from a letter written by a ‘Hugo 
Peccator’ (‘Hugh the Sinner’), of uncertain identification , 70 and in Bernard of 
Clairvaux’s ‘On the praise of the new soldiery’ (De laude novae militiae). Hugh 
maintains that their struggle against enemies of the faith and the church, 
their labours in the defence of Christians, are not sinful; nor is there any 
need to abandon this kind of Christian living in favour of a better one. Peace 
in the world cannot be achieved by withdrawing from the world instead of 
trying to influence it. These are the same arguments as Gregory VII and the 
propagandists of Matilda of Tuscany had used to encourage fighting on the 
church’s behalf. The connection is made even clearer by the fact that Hugh 
never mentions war against the heathen as the duty of the new community. 
Only from the rubric of the letter do we realise that the recipients are in 

Similarly, Bernard of Clairvaux in his treatise in praise of the Templars sees 
as the mark of the new soldiery not that they fight for the holy places, but that 

70 Text in Leclercq (1957) and Sclafert (1958). Suggestions as to the authors identity include Hugh of 
Payens, the founder of the Order, and Hugh of St Victor; or he may be ‘unknown’. 

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21 6 


they fight for Christ and against the enemies of the church. Thus they have 
overcome the defects of the old soldiery; they do not fight out of greed, anger or 
lust for fame. Therefore the older militia has become an evil ( malitia ), whereas 
the Templars fight with a clear conscience, because they fight in the cause of 
Christ. The general aim of war is to repel and punish evil, which is at present 
incarnate in the Muslims. The Templar is ‘Christ’s avenger against those who 
do evil, and the defender of the Christian ’. 71 Bernard connects the war waged 
by the Templars against the Muslims in the Holy Land with the rules for the 
just war to repel attack. But he sees it especially as part of an all-embracing 
struggle against evil, in which a man can fight in Christ’s cause and so become 
a servant of God. He does not measure the legitimacy of a war according to the 
identity of the enemy, heathen or otherwise; nor does its character as service 
of God depend on that point. Thus Bernard’s treatise is not only a eulogy of 
the Templars, it also contains an ethic for the soldier who remains in the world 
and undertakes, in his own land, the same duties as the Templars perform in 
the Holy Land. The Templars’ rule itself begins with an injunction applicable 
to all knights: they must defend the poor and the church out of zeal for 

The knightly orders of the twelfth century could not have arisen without 
the assumption that to kill a man in war was compatible with the commands 
of Christianity, and was no hindrance to a way of life comparable to that of 
monks or canons. Therefore the apologists of the new chivalric communities 
had to justify war per se. The war against the heathen was merely a special 
case. When, after the Second Crusade, the patriarch of Jerusalem cast doubt 
on the idea that it was permissible to kill heathens, he was answered by Peter 
of Troyes (Petrus Comestor ). 72 Peter tries to destroy the patriarch’s arguments 
with copious quotations from the authorities whom Gratian had gathered for 
his Decretal on the problem of war. Warfare is not contrary to God’s commands. 
If it is permissible, according to the church’s tradition, to fight against Christian 
enemies, then it is certainly permissible to fight against the heathens who seek 
to exterminate Christendom. Peter integrates the struggles to defend the Holy 
Land into the notion of the just war. They do have a special status, but only 
because they concern the places where Christ performed his mission on earth, 
and are conducted at the command of the pope, who is the vicar of Christ: 
they serve Christ’s cause directly. But the religious value which Peter attributes 
to the wars in the Holy Land is shared by ‘other’ struggles, for in them men 
were serving not only the king, but also God, who had ordered, ‘render unto 
Caesar the things which are Caesar’s’ (Matthew 21:22) . The religious aura which 

71 Bernard of Clairvaux, De laude novae militiae 111.4: ‘Christi vindex in his qui male agunt, et defensor 

christianorum reputatur’: Opera hi, ed. Leclercq and Rochais (1963), p. 217. 

72 Leclercq (1954). 

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War, peace and the Christian order 


covered the crusade and the war against the heathen could also fall upon the 
‘normal’ wars of a Christian king. 

The doubts of the patriarch of Jerusalem reflect the crisis of crusading ide- 
ology after the failure of the Second Crusade; even Peters answer is influenced 
by it. Formal and juristic considerations replace the conviction that the war 
was at the direct command of God. Critics of the Second Crusade, such as the 
Annalist of Wurzburg and Gerhoh of Reichersberg, saw its failure as a sign 
that the undertaking had been prompted not by God, but by false prophets 
and Antichrist. The crusade lost its uniqueness and its religious basis if it was 
unclear whether God or the devil had inspired it. 

The crusade was widely recognised as a way to individual salvation, but its 
historical and theological foundation as a war in God’s cause became weaker. 
Its legitimacy was increasingly based on notions of the just war. Just before 
the Third Crusade, Ralph Niger cast doubt on one of the fundamental con- 
victions of the crusaders: that they were punishing an injustice to God. God 
could do this for Himself. Ralph even toys with the thought that God might 
have given the Muslims possession of Palestine. He denies that Muslims ought 
to be killed out of hand. Killing as penance for sin was, he thought, a ques- 
tionable procedure. The only justification which Ralph offers for the struggles 
in the Holy Land is a basic assumption in the theory of the just war: it is per- 
missible to defend one’s own property and, if necessary, to use force in order to 
regain it. 73 

While Ralph reduced the crusade to the requirements of the just war, oth- 
ers used similar notions to explain the exceptional status of the crusade and 
describe it as a higher form of the just war. Peter of Blois also grappled with 
the problem of killing unbelievers in his appeal for crusaders and preachers 
of the crusade. Legal killing was permissible. This principle applied when a 
secular judge imposed the death penalty; Peter adapts it to the crusade. For 
what ‘higher law’ could be pleaded as excuse than ‘the common constitution 
of the church, the command of the pope, zeal for God and love of Christ’? 74 
When Innocent III called on the French king Philip II Augustus to help the 
Holy Land, he reminded him of feudal ideals. If a king were driven from his 
land and imprisoned, his vassals would offer their goods and their lives for 
him, lest they become traitors guilty of lese-majeste. Similarly, it was Philip’s 
duty to come to the help of Christ {Reg. 11. 241/51). The pope wrote in similar 
vein to the English king. 

Both Peter of Blois and Innocent III transposed the rules governing con- 
temporary law and society to the ‘higher’ sphere of the crusade as action for 

73 Ralph Niger, De re militari et triplici via peregrinationis Ierosolomitane 111.89-90. 

74 Peter of Blois, Epistle 232: ‘Et quae major lex excusat, quam communis Ecclesiae constitutio, prae- 

ceptum summi pontificis, zelus Domini, amor Christi?’ PL 207, col. 533. 

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Christ. Hence, the twelfth-century idea of the crusade also reflects the in- 
creasing regulation of society by legal principles. In so far as these principles 
related to war, crusading propaganda contributed decisively to their extension 
among the chivalric population of western Europe. The ethical problem of 
passing judgement on war and warfare had found a basically religious solu- 
tion in the crusading movement, whose principles decided the future ethos of 
the individual knight. His individual warlike activities could be understood 
as the performance of a duty imposed by God, and as such were free from 
sin. War itself, however, was conceived more and more as a phenomenon that 
must be evaluated according to juristic distinctions. The decisive contributors 
to this process were the twelfth-century canon lawyers, who developed and 
systematised the theory of the just war. 


Clarifications of the idea of warfare in the eleventh century drew on the the- 
ology of late antiquity, especially the writings of Augustine. These ideas were 
disseminated less by the propaganda directed at day-to-day political events 
than by collections of canon law, whose usefulness transcended contemporary 
disputes. Most influential of all was the Panormia of Ivo of Chartres, until 
it was superseded in the 1140s by Gratian’s Decretum. This became the basis 
of study and the object of scholarly interpretation. The increase in learning 
among the higher clergy and their careers in episcopal and royal courts, as 
well as in the Roman curia, led to a relatively homogeneous evaluation of the 
problem of war in the twelfth century. 

In fact, Gratian has little new to say on the subject. He, too, gathers together 
evidence from late antiquity, supplemented especially by papal epistles from 
the Carolingian era, already used by Ivo. What is new is that the material is 
not only systematically arranged, but also interpreted. Thus Gratian is able to 
compare ancient jurisprudence with the legal customs of his own time. Later 
commentators did not set out to expound a ‘dead’ text, but to explain its 
contemporary meaning. 

Gratians Decretum 

The case with which Gratian opens his discussion of war in Causa 23 of the 
Decretum demonstrates the close connections between war by the secular and 
the ecclesiastical power. Because some bishops and their dioceses have fallen 
into heresy and are trying to force their neighbours into it, the pope has 
ordered bishops who have jurisdictional powers conferred by the emperor to 

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War, peace and the Christian order 


march against the heretics. Thereupon the orthodox bishops make war on 
the heretics, licensed to do so by the pope’s orders and their membership 
of the imperial jurisdiction. Gratian discusses war not on the basis of purely 
ecclesiastical wars such as the crusade, but from an example in which the rights 
of church and state intersect. Hence his solutions apply both to wars waged 
on the church’s orders and to wars by the secular power. They are solutions of 
principle, although Gratian does not aim at any systematic theory of the just 

Gratian examines war in relation to the individual morality of the war- 
rior, asking whether warlike activity is sinful; and to its objective justification, 
defining the just war. Both are connected by the question whether it is right 
to defend one’s neighbours against injustice. War is justified on the basis of 
the reasons for which it is being waged. The guilt of those who fight wars, 
or declare them, arises not from the war itself, but from their own motives. 
Thus it is possible to sin by taking part in a war which is in itself just, if one 
goes to war out of greed for plunder, or is induced to carry out atrocities. On 
the other hand, it is conceivable that one could participate without sin in a 
campaign which was itself unjustifiable, if one were unaware of that fact. In 
any combination there could be a link between individual attitudes and the 
justification of war per se. 

The canonists suggested combinations of this kind, and not for mere in- 
tellectual amusement. The crusades fit this schema exactly. Here, most people 
accepted that the reasons for such wars, and therefore the wars themselves, 
were broadly just. But this did not in the least imply that all crusaders were 
justified. The very failures of the crusades were convincing evidence that many 
people had taken part in them from unsound motives. The jurists went back 
to an earlier example, that of the late Roman emperor Julian the Apostate, 
when considering the question whether one could participate without sin in 
the wars of a sinful ruler. That Julian was sinful did not necessarily imply that 
his commands were sinful. Even this apostate ruler could demand obedience 
from his soldiers, if his call to arms had a legitimate aim. The ruler’s power to 
command, and the soldier’s duty of obedience, came under discussion. Both 
ruler and warrior belonged in duty bound to the order and community of the 
‘state’, which was becoming progressively more distinct from the person of the 
ruler. The discussion of war contributed to the development of an abstract 
concept of the state. This tended increasingly to justify the king’s power to 
command, although the quarrel between dualistic and hierocratic concepts 
in twelfth-century canon law tends to disguise the fact. Gratian’s discussion 
of war from a twofold starting point, as a problem of individual morality 
and a political problem with its own legitimacy, laid the cornerstone for this 

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Gratian makes the question whether war service is sinful such an inseparable 
part of the attitude of individual soldiers that he does not even mention the 
prohibition on killing in the Ten Commandments. He is much more inclined 
to see the aims of a just war, the repulsion and punishment of injustice, in the 
light of gospel teachings - that injustice must be endured and the punishment 
left to God. Following this chain of argument, Gratian takes no account of the 
community, but only of individual reactions to the use of force. At the same 
time he maintains that God could meet force with force, for He could have sent 
His legions of angels to deliver Christ. Legitimate force is not unacceptable; it 
can come from God. Hence, the arguments gathered by Gratian tend to show 
that the individual should use force within the framework of the God-given 
order, but not on his own account. 

The subordination of the individual to God allows Gratian to resolve the 
apparent contradiction between war service and the precepts of the gospel, 
because to him this subordination appears in man’s intent rather than in his 
deeds. The demands of the gospel which apparently tell against war service 
relate to the ‘preparation of the heart’ ( praeparatio cordis-, C.23 q.i dictum post 
c.y). Wrongful individual conduct makes war service into sin: for example, a 
wrong motive such as hatred, or selfish behaviour arising from greed for booty. 
Conversely, war service which seeks not personal advantage, but the good of 
the political community, is deserving of the highest praise. 

For wars of this kind Gratian formulated his definition of the just war, 
drawing on Isidore of Seville and Augustine: it is waged upon command and 
serves as punishment for injustice (C.23 q.2 dictum post c.2). Gratian had 
already, at the very beginning of the Decretum, included the right to defend 
oneself and meet force with force as one of the fundamental principles of natural 
law (D.i c.7). This applied both to individuals and to a politial community. 
Hence, a just war should assert and enforce the law. It then followed, not only 
that the church was entitled to ask for military help, but also that there was 
a duty to use military force to defend one’s country. In general, the man who 
failed to defend his neighbour against injustice was as much to blame as its 
perpetrator. Gratian formulates this as a principle of individual morality. From 
this viewpoint, the objective aim of the just war, the service of justice, was 
echoed by the moral attitude of the warrior. 

Gratian’s discussion of whether injustice should be punished only serves 
to clarify this principle. Normally, responsibility for the community will not 
allow injustice to go unpunished and have free rein. Hence the death penalty is 
acceptable. Significantly, Gratian here, for the first time, discusses the Old 
Testament ban on killing and Christ’s assertion that he who takes the sword shall 
perish by the sword. According to Gratian, these biblical citations forbid only 
unauthorised killing. The holder of a public office may kill on the dictates of 

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War, peace and the Christian order 


the law (C.23 q.5 dictum postc.y). Gratian cites a whole series of canons to show 
that killing can be ordered and legitimised by the secular power, and does not 
then lead into guilt and sin. This applies both to the death penalty and to war, 
which can be seen as a special kind of punitive expedition. 

Gratians doctrine of the just war is slanted towards the secular power. In the 
twelfth century this had to mean that it focused on the king. Gratian places God 
near to the secular power. One could wage war upon the authority of God ( deo 
auctore) without infringing the ban on killing in the Ten Commandments. 75 
Here, Gratian brings the crusade, as a war in the cause of God, into a canonical 
formula. However, he does not explain his ideas by referring to the crusade; 
rather, he holds up as an example the wars against Israel when it fell away 
from God, and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans as punishment 
for the crucifixion of Christ. These are the decisive references in his juristic 
line of argument. Since God is the only true leader of battles, the king has no 
place in this line of argument - especially as kings had taken no original or 
essential part in the crusading movement. Gratian is much more concerned 
to show that even without a secular power such as was represented by the 
king, war and killing could still be justified. Sins were sometimes punished ‘by 
peoples aroused by the divine command’ ( per populos diuino iussu excitatos), 
he says (C.23 q.5 c.49), and he tells how some such peoples became tools of 
God even without their knowledge. Their actual war might not be unjustified, 
but their leaders might be individually guilty. Israel, on the other hand, had 
consciously waged its wars of conquest at God’s command, and so the lands 
which it conquered became its legitimate property. Conscious obedience to 
God justified Israel’s wars and turned the conquests into God-given possession 
of the land. 

The wars which Gratian mentions in the concluding dictum (C.23 q.5 dic- 
tum post c.49) in his discussion of the death penalty are wars waged at God’s 
command to punish sins, meaning rebellions against the divine order. Cru- 
sading ideology also favoured the idea of punishing an injustice done to God. 
Moreover, Gratians distinction between those who wittingly and unwittingly 
obey God’s command counters one of the fundamental motifs of anti-crusade 
criticism. The chief complaint against the crusaders was that they had intended 
not to fulfil the will of God, but to pursue their own interests. Thus Gratian 
offers some consolation for defeats. Peoples who followed God were required 
to do penance for their own sins so that they could again be victorious. Here, 
Gratian is fitting war into a historical process conducted by God. This can 
obviously be extended to include the crusade. As a war on God’s authority, the 
crusade is an integral part of Gratians teaching on the just war. 

75 For text see note 53 above. 

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While the crusade was, in theory, under the direct command of God, it 
was the pope who actually proclaimed these warlike expeditions. The crusade 
was the church’s war. Whether pope and bishops could themselves engage in 
warlike activities is investigated by Gratian in the final quaestio of his Causa 
on war (C.23 q.8). It is a problem of practical church politics, as is shown 
immediately by his selection of authorities: for here Gratian depends very little 
on the theology of late antiquity. His main support comes from the popes up to 
Alexander II, with his decretals concerning war against the heathen in Spain. 7 ® 
On this basis Gratian ascribes to the popes full authority in military matters. 
They may summon a war, take command of it, and even take part in it. 

Bishops, however, have only limited rights in war. They, too, can if necessary 
call people to the defence of Christendom. In general, however, they should 
abstain from worldly concerns and military activities. But this applies only to 
bishops whose income comes from purely ecclesiastical sources such as tithes 
and oblations. They owe no duty to the king of their country. That is the 
ideal; but such bishops contrast with others who have received goods, castles 
and towns from the king and owe him services for them. They must hearken 
to Christs words, ‘Render unto Caesar those things which are Caesar’s.’ That 
includes military allegiance. 

Gratian’s explanation of the duty owed by bishops to kings echoes the so- 
lution which the Concordat of Worms (1122) gave to the problem in the 
imperium. The nature of the bishopric defined whether the bishop must fulfil 
duties which lay outside his holy office. Gratian grasped the consequences of 
this development: a bishop who owed service to the king was comparable to 
a secular baron. The Summa ‘Elegantius in iure divino’, so as to clarify the 
persona of a bishop, also stated: ‘In God’s affairs they act as bishops, in worldly 
affairs as dukes.’ 77 At the same time, Gratian ranked the king’s claim to military 
obedience rather highly, for it was still recognised even if the ideal episcopal 
life was opposed to it. However, Gratian says that the pope must agree before a 
bishop can personally appear upon the battlefield alongside his royal master. In 
practice this remained a dead letter; one of the commentators on the Decretum, 
Sicard of Cremona, saw it merely as a recommendation. 78 

The Decretists 

Gratian’s Decretum soon became the object of learned interpretation by the 
‘Decretists’. They continued the process of refining and updating the church’s 

76 See above, note 31. 

77 Pars xii iterum, c. 15: ‘in causis Dei pontificem, in causis seculi ducem implentes’: Summa, ed. 
Fransen and Kuttner (1969-84), hi, p. 221. 

78 Hehl (1980), p. 221, n. 855. 

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War, peace and the Christian order 


concept of war. There was no more need to discuss in detail whether military 
activities could be combined with a Christian lifestyle. Only people - clergy 
or monks - who had chosen a specifically religious way of life ought to abstain 
from war, but not because it was intrinsically unjust: it was because such people 
had a twofold obligation. Instead of defending themselves, they were required 
to submit patiently to injustice; and they were forbidden to shed human blood. 
The Decretists admitted exceptions only in the case of defence against an attack 
on one’s own life, or for bishops who exercised public and political functions. 

Warlike activity and war were qualitatively and morally neutral. This was a 
fundamental conviction of the Decretists, as formulated by Sicard of Cremona: 

The performance of war service is indifferent, because in itself it is neither good nor 
evil. Your motivation decides the character of your war service because fighting for 
booty is bad, but fighting for justice is good. Therefore it is forbidden not on its own 
account, but for other reasons . 79 

From this viewpoint the Decretists could treat war as an objective fact of socio- 
political life, divorced from the problem of individual sin. War was justified 
on its own grounds; the intentions of the participants served only to gauge 
whether an individual had sinned. The criteria for individual sinfulness were 
the same as ever: hatred, greed, lust for domination, etc. 

Justice was the measure of war. One party must have a legitimate reason for 
waging war; the other must have deserved to have war waged upon it. It could 
happen that neither had just grounds for making war according to the above 
definition, in which case the war was unjust seen from either side. Could a 
justified attack meet an equally justified defence? The Decretists were some- 
what reluctant to consider such a case. Most of them were caught in a juristic 
either/or situation: if one party was in the right, the other party was automat- 
ically in the wrong. The problem was treated most extensively by Huguccio, 
the most distinguished of the Decretists. Theoretically he maintained that it 
was impossible for both sides to be waging a just war. However, he evidently 
assumed that both commanders would be convinced that they had a just reason 
for fighting, and did not blame anyone for sinning in an unjust war. 8 ° This is 
a turning point in the medieval debate on war. Of course, war could be an- 
alysed more objectively, and measured against an absolute definition of justice. 
But the conflict of subjective notions of justice could not be resolved, and it 
often seems to have passed quite unnoticed. One apparent (but only apparent) 
solution was to grant the right to make war only to those who could appeal to 

79 ‘Militare indifferens est, quia quantum est in se nec bonum nec malum est. Affectus ergo tuus militie 
tue naturam imponit, nam militare propter predam malum est, militare propter iustitiam bonum 
est. Prohibetur ergo non propter se, sed propter aliud.’ Hehl (1980), p. 188, n. 736. 

80 Hehl 1980, pp. 266-7 ( no - n.3.e). 

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no higher judge in their disputes. As a rule this meant kings, so that the right 
to war was confined to the highest level of the socio-political organisation. 

The princeps had the right to make war: the word denoted God, the church, 
the king and the emperor. This right was a sign that one had no secular superior. 
Hence the canonists’ discussion is part of the prehistory of the modern concept 
of sovereignty, though that was only the final outcome of the development. 
For the situation in real life tended to encourage the admission of exceptions. 
Alanus Anglicus, at the beginning of the thirteenth century, explained that in 
certain regions princes, who did have lords over them, could wage war on their 
own authority; so could the Italian cities. 81 By waging war independently, one 
could free oneself permanently from a superior ruling power. 

To what extent the canonists’ theories demanded and legitimised the con- 
centration of power at the summit of the political organisation is shown by 
their discussion of whether, and when, a war commander must be obeyed. 
One could not be excused from such obedience by doubt as to the justice of 
the command to fight. Only if the command obviously went against God was 
its fulfilment forbidden. Without entering into detail, the Decretists meant 
by this the absence of any just reasons for fighting, excesses springing from 
an obvious desire for revenge, and suchlike. Anything of this nature divorced 
the fighting from any established norms relating to the reasons for a war and 
participation in it. 

The Decretists were anxious to emphasise the giving of military obedience, 
rather than the grounds for withholding it. Even a heathen lord could demand 
obedience if he summoned a just war; in which case even Christians who were 
subject to his rule and jurisdiction must take up arms. John of Salisbury had 
already advanced this argument in his Policraticus (vi.9). Huguccio reduced it 
to the formula that nothing in this case differentiated the heathen lord from 
a Christian one. However, Christians who were not subject to the jurisdiction 
of a heathen lord could not take part in his war, however just, without sin. 
Huguccio names as examples Christians who fought under Saladin. But he 
concedes that even this chief enemy of Christian rule in the Holy Land can 
wage just wars. 82 

Evidently the Decretists wanted to grant rulers a power of military command 
which the church would curb only in exceptional cases. This could extend to the 
point where even an excommunicated ruler could demand obedience from his 
vassals if he called them to the defence of his country. The ban on dealings with 
the excommunicate did not apply in such cases. This remained an exceptional 
doctrine, but it reveals a typical trend of the discussion. Thus, a penitent who 

81 Post (1964), p. 465, n. 106. 

82 Cf. text in Russell (1975), p. 121, n. 123; p. 122, n. 124; Hehl (1980), p. 265. 

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War, peace and the Christian order 


has been forbidden to use weapons can bear them on orders from his feudal 
lord, as Huguccio explains. For the church, in imposing penance, ought not to 
deprive a lord of the service of his vassals . 83 The Decretists allowed bishops who 
were invested with regalian rights ( regalia ) to perform military service for their 
king. They refined the doctrine developed by Gratian via the contemporary 
concept of regalia. The law of the church and the military organisation of 
western Christendom were not mutually contradictory. 

Whether or not a war was justified depended initially on its motives. The 
Decretists usually list defence of the internal order (of which religion was a 
part), the repelling of an attack and the punishment of injustice - i.e. they add 
nothing to Gratian’s catalogue. They derive these motives from the fundamental 
principle of natural law: that it is permissible to repel force with force. War must 
be impelled by necessity ( necessitas ). It can be used as a last resort to safeguard 
justice, after all other means, especially negotiation and legal proceedings, have 
failed. If war was to be based on adequate motives and necessitas, this made the 
efforts of the treuga Dei to confine warfare to certain days obsolete: the just 
war was permitted at any time: the unjust war was always forbidden. 

The aim of war was to defend and safeguard a just political society. The last 
Merovingian king had rightly lost his crown to Charles Martel, because he had 
been ‘useless to the kingdom’ ( regno inutilis), whereas Charles had fought for 
it: thus writes Stephen of Tournai . 84 Other Decretists repeated his opinion and 
added that Charles had laboured for the welfare of all’ ( communis salus) and 
the ‘fatherland’ ( patria ). The general concepts of ‘welfare’ {salus), ‘calm’ {quies) 
and ‘peace’ (pax) were used to describe the aims of war, though the Decretists 
never defined these concepts in detail. They used them to mean, in general, 
the safe and orderly existence of a political society. 

In this way the Decretists integrated the concept of peace into an idea 
of concrete secular government, taking no account of the wider meaning, 
embracing the whole of God’s created order, which stemmed from Augustine. 
However, the Augustinian theology of peace was not unknown to the twelfth 
century. A treatise ‘On the goodness of peace’ ( De hono pads) is attributed 
to a certain Rufinus . 85 The principle of peace pervades every part of creation: 
from the peace of God in the Trinity down to peace among men on Earth. 
Peace among mankind is based on three alternative principles: on the rule of 
injustice (Saint Augustine had explained this in the light of robbers who too 
want to live in ‘peace’ ) 86 , on the rule of justice ( iustitia ) and fairness ( aequitas ), 

83 Held (1980), p. 267 (no. 11.3.O. 84 Ibid., p. 200. 

85 Ed. Brunacci and Catanzaro (1986). In his review of this work in DA 45: 246, Martin (1989) doubts 
the authorship of the canonist Rufinus; cf. the latest edition by Deutinger (1997): the author is 
archbishop Rufinus of Sorrento (after 1149 to before 1197), not the canonist Rufinus. 

86 Augustine, De civitate dei xix. 12. 

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and, ideally, on Christian brotherhood. The canonists’ arguments basically 
revolved around the question of how peace, as a state of earthly justice and 
equity - imposed by war if necessary -could be achieved. 

Thus, the just war was essentially defensive and restorative. This was also 
true of wars against the heathen and crusades, which were seldom seen as 
aggression on the part of Christendom. If Christian aggression was discussed, 
it was usually in relation to the suppression of heretical movements. However, 
Christian claims to domination could never lapse with time; and yet regions 
which had never been in Christian hands ought not to be the subject of 
Christian wars, unless they were being used as a base for attacks on Christians. 
This meant that only the lands belonging to the ancient Roman empire were 
open to Christian reconquest. There were, however, groups who assumed that 
early Christendom had extended further than this, or that the missionary 
activities of the apostles, which also gave rise to Christian claims, had been 
geographically unlimited. Such groups did not influence canonical teaching, 
nor are they personally known to us. Their programme of universal Christian 
restoration did not contradict the principles of the just war, and shows that 
the defensive structure of the just war concept was purely formal. 

By the second half of the twelfth century, the idea that the crusade was de- 
fensive or restorative was in accordance with reality. In the Holy Land, the main 
theatre of the war against the heathen, Christendom was under threat. The 
Decretists conspicuously avoid saying that any particular crusading expedition 
is war on God’s command. This concept from the early crusading movement, 
which they found as an abstract formula in Gratian, had no meaning for them. 
That God could authorise a war they saw as a notion which had been out- 
stripped by history. It was indeed a way of justifying the wars of Israel in the 
Old Testament, but no Decretist related it to the heathen wars of his own time. 
Even the earlier Decretists, in the 1150s, denied that the circumstances of the 
Old Testament could be transferred to the problematics of contemporary war. 
The Fathers had of course been entitled to wage war on those who had shown 
enmity to them; but nowadays it was forbidden to make war on heathens who 
had done nothing to harm the Christian religion. Divine inspiration was an 
excuse, but only for individuals. The Decretists did not apply this principle to 
mass movements like the crusades. It was not Israel’s divinely ordained wars to 
seize land in Palestine that were the model for contemporary wars against the 
heathen in the Holy Land, but the struggles of the Maccabbees to defend their 

The crisis of crusading ideology after the Second Crusade seems also to have 
left its mark on the Decretists. The optimistic notion of a historical turning 
point, which would herald the triumph of Christendom, disappeared. It was no 
longer possible to fulfil the will of God by ‘offensive’ war against the heathen. 

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War, peace and the Christian order 


Rather, the defence of the Holy Land was part of the struggle to ensure that 
God’s church would continue to exist until the end of time, and thus to show 
the rightness of God’s message - or so one of the Decretists explains. This being 
the task of the church, it was no longer entitled, as in the age of the martyrs, 
to endure persecution and injustice with evangelical patience. 87 

It was the duty of kings to guarantee the existence, rights and safety of the 
church in their kingdoms. They could not evade the need to help the church 
by force of arms. If they refused, they were threatened with excommunication, 
which meant that their subjects could withdraw their obedience. They would 
probably be deposed as a result. Protecting the church, like defending the 
kingdom, was one of the duties of the kingly office. It was that office, and not 
subjection to the church’s power of command, which obliged the ruler to go 
to war. 

Neither was it the church’s power of command that lay behind appeals for the 
crusade. The popes did in such circumstances assume the role of the legitimate 
power without whose authority no just war could be waged; but nobody was 
obliged to obey their call. They could only proclaim the crusade and reward it 
with indulgences. Their authority freed the crusaders from the accusation that 
they were making war on their own account, and so unjustifiably. Even kings - 
as Huguccio recommended at the turn of the thirteenth century - should 
not wage war without ecclesiastical authority. This was obviously meant to 
prevent a ruler from taking up arms without sufficient reason, or even from 
reprehensible motives, and thus falling into sin. ss To an extent the church 
was responsible ratione peccati (by reason of sin), as Innocent III maintained 
when he sought in 1204 to end the struggle between the French king Philip II 
Augustus and the English John Lackland. 89 However the Decretists strove to 
objectify war, it remained a problem for the ruler who commanded it; and if he 
wished for a solution he must turn to the pope as the supreme authority. Only 
in the thirteenth century did people begin to consider the problem in purely 
juristic terms. If the pope was appealed to, it was not as a moral authority with 
the power to judge sins. Rather he was the proper judge of secular rulers, and 
therefore responsible for their squabbles. This remained, like the arguments 
of Huguccio and Innocent III, purely theoretical, but it shows the path that 
discussion of war had taken through the eleventh and twelfth centuries. 

87 Summa Elegantius in iure divino’, pars xn iterum, c. 10, ed. Fransen and Kuttner (1969-86), hi, pp. 

88 Text in Hehl (1980), p. 266 (no. n.3.e). 

89 Reg. vn.42; PL 215, cols. 325-8 = Decretal Novit (Liber extra 11.1.13), ed. Friedberg (1879), n, cols. 

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The question whether killing in war, and therefore war itself, led one into sin 
no longer affected the whole structure of society. It only concerned individual 
behaviour. The ordering of society was more decisively affected by the idea of 
justice which was increasingly derived from the legitimate position of the ruler 
and the formal agreement of his commands with contemporary legal theory. 
Only in exceptional cases was this justice measured, in political debate, against 
the justice of God, which it was supposed to realise upon earth. In the eleventh 
century such notions are more clearly detectable, especially in the orbit of 
Gregory VII. Twelfth-century discussion became more and more concrete; it 
took account of the actual course of political events and reacted accordingly. 
The earlier concept of ‘peace’, meaning the longed-for accord of the earthly 
and divine orders, has little relevance here. 

Thus, the theme of peace and war reflects two fundamental developments 
during the eleventh and twelfth centuries: on the one side, the rationalisation of 
socio-political attitudes, which became focused on the juridically based notions 
of the legitimate ruler and his duties, and of due obedience; on the other, a 
greater insistence on the individual, perceptible in the way that sin comes to 
be seen less as an objective action and more as a willed decision by a single 
person. Both developments related to a society which was becoming more and 
more diverse, and was evolving towards the concept of the sovereign state. 

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CHURCH, 1024-1073 

H. E. J. Cowdrey 

it is no coincidence that the terminal dates of this chapter should respectively 
refer to the promotion of an emperor and of a pope, for they serve to delimit 
forty-nine years which witnessed a decline in the power and prestige of the 
German emperors and an energetic and lasting papal revival. In 1024, Conrad 
II (1024-39) became king of Germany, the first of the Salian house; in 1027 he 
was crowned emperor at Rome by Pope John XIX, a scion of the local Tusculan 
family, who had become pope also in 1024. According to his biographer Wipo, 
the rhetoric at his royal anointing was extravagant: Archbishop Aribo of Mainz 
declared, ‘You have come to the highest office; you are the vicar of Christ.’ 1 
In 1073, Hildebrand, archdeacon at Rome since 1058, became Pope Gregory 
VII (1073-85). From Lorraine, Abbot Walo of Metz was prompt in congratu- 
lation: the Lord had caused one well versed in ecclesiastical duties to sit on St 
Peter’s throne, whence the light of all virtues radiated through the world and 
where all things converged as, in a circle, the radii meet at the middle point 
that geometricians call the centre’. 2 In 1024 a king-emperor seemed to be at 
the world’s focal point, but in 1073 the pope. The contrast was a sharp one 
because of a crisis in papal affairs half-way between these dates. During the 
winter of 1045-6, Conrad’s son and successor Henry III (1039-56) undertook 
a Roman expedition and set aside three claimants to the papacy who had been 
contending since 1044. The dominance of local families was effectively broken; 
the godly reformer Henry instituted a series of reforming popes who during 
his lifetime came from Germany but thereafter until 1073 mainly from north 
Italy. Leo IX (1048-54), in particular, demonstrated the new energy of the 

1 ‘Ad summam dignitatem pervenisti, vicarius es Christi’: Wipo Gesta, c. 3, pp. 22-3, 

2 ‘Quod quidem beneficium nostris Dominum concessisse temporibus, quisquis non invidet, videt, 
dum te iam olim disciplinis ecclesiasticis eruditum, illius nunc cathedrae fecit esse sessorem, a qua 
per orbem terrarum omnium virtutum lumina diffimduntur, et ad quam velut in circulo lineae ad 
ilium medium, quod centrum geometrici vocant, universa convergunt’: Pontificum Romanum, ed. 
Watterich (1862), 1. 740-2; the abbot is correctly Walo, not William. 


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papacy by holding councils not only at Rome but also in Italy, France and Ger- 
many. Contemporaries saw that Henry Ill’s intervention was a turning point: 
‘The apostolic see has returned from darkness to light’, the future Cardinal 
Peter Damian rhapsodised to Pope Clement II (1046-7). 3 The events of 1024, 
1044-8, and 1073 set the scene for a discussion of the structure of the Latin 
church during the mid-eleventh century. 

Nothing too precise and settled by way of structure should as yet be looked 
for. The very rhetoric of the period - the king as vicar of Christ, the papal throne 
as the geometrician’s point where all things converge, Henry Ill’s intervention 
as a return from darkness to light - should warn how unstructured the church 
was. If by structure is understood a hierarchy of government and jurisdiction 
arising from prerogatives of the Roman church that were clearly formulated and 
effectively imposed, a clear separation of the spiritual authority ( sacerdotium ) 
from the royal power ( regnum ) with the former supreme, a formed constitution 
descending from the pope through archbishops and bishops with diocesan 
officers like archdeacons and rural deans to priests each with his territorial 
parish, and a scheme of jurisdiction with spiritual courts and a mature canon 
law, it must be questioned whether the church had yet achieved a structure. 
Institutions of Gregory VIIs twelfth-century successors must not be read back 
into his pontificate and those of his predecessors. The period 1024-73 falls 
between the endeavours of the Carolingian age to establish a unitary Christian 
order, which had prolongations into the tenth and eleventh centuries, 4 and 
the achievement of the twelfth century in establishing an effective legal and 
governmental organisation. The structure, such as it was, of the mid-eleventh- 
century church must be approached through evidence which is characteristic 
of the period. It may best be illustrated by examples from the liturgy and from 
the older canon law. 

Since the fourth century, the Christian creeds have proclaimed the communion 
of saints, and therefore a church of which the church militant upon earth is only 
part: it is complemented by the church expectant of the faithful departed and 
the church triumphant of the saints in glory. There is one community of the 
living and the dead in which, for the eleventh perhaps more vitally than for any 
other century, the saints were of the utmost significance as intercessors in heaven 

3 ‘apostolicam sedem de tenebris ad lucem remeasse dicimus’: Die Briefe des Petrus Damiani i. 239-42, 
no. 26, at p. 241. 

4 For Carolingian ideas about ecclesiastical order and structure, see Robinson (1988), pp. 252-64. His 
opening point, that the period 750-1150 produced no treatise De ecclesia , is particularly important; 
until the fourteenth century no one produced such a work, nor did any thirteenth-century Summa 
contain such a section: Arquilliere (1926). Thus, the early and central middle ages were guided by 
no systematic thought about the subject. 

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The structure of the church, 1024—1073 


whose relics upon earth were the immediate and tangible evidences of their 
power. Liturgical and quasi-liturgical devotions brought home to Christians a 
church whose order comprehended earth and heaven. Such is the perspective 
of the Litanies of the Saints which proliferated in the Carolingian and post- 
Carolingian churches. 5 They set the company of heaven in hierarchical rank, 
as for example in the order for dedicating a church to be found in the Romano- 
Germanic Pontifical, a compendium of liturgical and catechetical material for 
bishops which was compiled at Mainz c. 960 and by the mid-eleventh century 
had circulated through western Christendom. 

The Litany that it contained began by invoking Christ himself, as saviour of 
the world. The Virgin came next, supreme among the saints; she was followed 
by angels and archangels. Then came the saints in five further gradations: John 
the Baptist, apostles and evangelists, martyrs, confessors and virgins. Widows, 
innocents and penitents might be added. Pleas for mercy and grace often 
extended the structure to the church militant, with such prayers as that God 
would ‘keep the lord pope and the whole order of the church in true religion’. 6 
Fixed in pattern but adaptable in detail, Litanies could be appropriated to 
particular churches or occasions by naming saints whose bodies or relics were 
to hand. For every church there was a place in a structure embracing earth and 
heaven. Lex orandi lex credendi : such was the ‘law of believing’ which the ‘law 
of praying’ implanted in Christian minds. 

Especially adept in presenting a divine order of earth and heaven were the 
so-called Laudes regiae texts which originated as a section of the Litany of the 
Saints but, by the ninth century, became separated. Especially in Germany, 
the early Salian period saw their widest dissemination, before altered pre- 
suppositions in the age of Gregory VII weakened and changed them. 7 Two 
misconceptions must be avoided. It is misleading to associate them with 
‘ruler- worship’: the recurring cry, ‘Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ com- 
mands’, 8 establishes the Christocentric character that they shared with Litanies 
of the Saints. Nor were they mainly to do with coronations and crown- 
wearings; they were sung in major churches at the principal mass on great 
festivals, whether the king were present or not. They reached a wide au- 
dience. Their intercessory section called down heavenly aid for the power- 
ful upon earth in hierarchical order. A plea for Christ to hearken, Exaudi 
Christe, introduced the acclamation of each social rank, and the choir invoked 

5 Coens (1936-44); Kammer (1962); Lapidge (1991). 

6 ‘Ut domnum apostolicum et omnem ordinem ecclesiasticum in sancta religione conservare digneris: 
Te rogamus’: Le Pontifical romano-germanique duXesiecle xl. 2, 23. Ordo here means order of society’ 
rather than hierarchy. 

7 Kantorowicz (1946); Opfermann (1953); Cowdrey (1981). 

8 ‘Charistus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat.’ 

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a group of saints according to the heavenly gradation in the Litanies of 
the Saints. There might be variation of the earthly hierarchy, but the basic 
structure was established: the reigning pope was followed by the emperor 
or king, then came the bishops, clergy and Christian faithful, and finally 
the lay princes and perhaps the armies. At least in principle, the ranks of 
heaven and earth were marshalled in a single, divinely established order of 

Its single and undivided character is apparent. Moreover, it was no abstract 
theory; it could be adapted to state how particular rulers regarded their au- 
thority. Thus, in 1068, William I, the Norman conqueror of England, used the 
Laudes regiae as chanted at his queens coronation to declare his new regality. 9 
He was a little lower than Pope Alexander II, ‘supreme pontiff and universal 
pope’, for whom the Persons of the Trinity were invoked. But he was a king 
‘most serene, crowned by God, great and pacific’; 10 for him and his army, ‘the 
army of Christians’, 11 was reserved the calling down of ‘life and victory’, and 
to him was assigned the invocation of the supreme saints - the Virgin and 
archangels. The acclamation in turn of the queen, the archbishop and clergy, 
the bishops and abbots, and the lay princes, followed. The alternation of cleri- 
cal and lay is a reminder that, as late as the mid-eleventh century, a dissociation 
of sacerdotium and regnum is anachronistic. 12 

Yet, in the structure of a unitary society, the functions of kings and bishops 
were interpenetrating but not confused. Especially instructive is the coronation 
order of the Romano-Germanic Pontifical — ‘the order for blessing a king when 
a new king is elevated to the kingly office by clergy and people’. 13 King-making 
was envisaged as a shared function of clergy and people, where by ‘people’ the 
princes were particularly intended. The culminating prayer, used when the 
elected, anointed and crowned king was led by the metropolitan to his throne, 
ran as follows: 

Take and henceforth keep the place which hitherto you have held by paternal succession, 
and which is now in hereditary right committed to you by authority of Almighty God 
and our present gift - that is, by all the bishops and other servants of God. And 
as you see the clergy to stand nearer to the holy altars, so in appropriate places you 
should remember when it behoves you to grant them the greater honour. Thus may 
the mediator of God and man [1 Tim. 2:5] strengthen you, the mediator of clergy and 
people - at this point the metropolitan causes him to sit upon his chair, saying'. - in this, 

9 Cowdrey (1981), pp. 70-1, with comment on pp. 52-5. For German examples from the period under 

discussion, see Opfermann (1953), pp. 138-48. 

10 ‘Wilhelmo serenissimo a Deo coronato magno et pacifico regi vita et victoria.’ 

11 ‘cuncto exercitui Christianorum’. 12 Tellenbach (1988), p. 43. 

13 ‘Ordo ad regem benedicendum quando novus a clero et populo sublimatur in regnum’: LePotitifical 

romano-germanique du Xe Siecle lxxii. 

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The structure of the church, 1024—1073 233 

the throne of royal power. May Jesus Christ our Lord, king of kings and lord of lords, 
cause you to reign with him in his eternal kingdom . 14 

The king is mediator cleri et plebis, with superiority over clergy and people 
alike. Yet the ambiguity of the phrase must be noticed. On the one hand, 
the parallel with Christ calls for the translation ‘mediator’, in recognition that 
the king’s regality set him apart from other men and gave him an authority 
in and over the church. Hence, Archbishop Aribo of Mainz could remind 
Conrad II that, as king, he was the vicar of Christ. On the other hand, the 
prayer inculcated in the king a respect for the clergy whose proximity to the 
altar, that is, whose sacramental capacities, he did not share. In this respect, 
mediator would better be translated ‘governor’: the king had a special function 
to regulate society and bring justice to all its parts. Although society was not 
divided between sacerdotium and regnum, there was a functional difference 
between king and clergy which warns against the phrase ‘sacral kingship’. 
There should be no mistaking the limit set, at least in canon law, to the king’s 
exercise of spiritual functions. Burchard of Worms, a German bishop who 
compiled his influential Decretum c.ioio, insisted that ‘no capacity in anyway 
to dispose of ecclesiastical matters is granted to laymen, however religious’; 
for him laymen included emperors and kings. 15 Provided these nuances are 
observed, the phrase mediator cleri et plebis is a good epitome of the royal office 
in the mid-eleventh century. 

Canon law also furnished material for reflection upon the ecclesiastical hier- 
archy in itself. An excellent model was provided by the Pseudo-Isidorian Dec- 
retals, compiled c. 850 in northern France. 16 They were designed to strengthen 
bishops against metropolitans, and tended further to weaken the latter by 
magnifying primates and patriarchs (in Pseudo-Isidore these terms were in- 
terchangeable). 17 Whereas a metropolitan was head of a province within a 
single kingdom, a primate had authority, perhaps internationally, over several 

14 ‘Sta et retine amodo locum quem hucusque paterna successione tenuisti, hereditario iure tibi del- 
egatum per auctoritatem Dei omnipotentis et presentem traditionem nostram, omnium scilicet 
episcoporum ceterorumque Dei servorum. Et quanto clerum sacris altaribus propinquiorem per- 
spicis, tanto ei potiorem in locis congruis honorem impendere memineris, quatinus, mediator Dei 
et hominum, te mediatorem cleri et plebis - Hoc in loco sedere eum faciat domnus metropolitanus 
super sedem, dicendo: - in hoc regni solio confirmet et in regno aeterno secum regnare faciat Iesus 
Christus dominus noster, rex regum et dominus dominantium’: ibid, Lxxn.25. 

15 ‘Ut laid quamvis religiosi ecclesiastica non disponant. Laicis, quamvis religiosis, nullo modo de ecclesi- 
asticis facultatibus aliquid disponendi unquam attribuatur facultas’: Burchard, Decretum xv.35; the 
Argumentum of Lib. xv declares that ‘Libro hoc de laicis omnis conditionis tractatio instituitur, tarn 
de iis qui praesunt, ut imperatoribus, regibus, principibus, quam his qui horum imperio subiecti 

16 The fullest discussions of Pseudo-Isidore are those in Fuhrmann (1953-5) and (1972-4). 

17 Pseudo-Isidore, Decretales, p. 79: patriarchas vel primates qui unam formam tenent’. 

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234 H. E - J- COWDREY 

provinces. If, as in sometime Roman Gaul, a record like the Notitia Gal- 
liarum facilitated a comparison with imperial Roman arrangements, the latter 
could be the basis for eleventh-century claims to superiority: because Trier 
was in Belgica prima, it might claim superiority to Rheims in Belgica se- 
cunda; because it was in Lugdunensis prima, Lyons might be envisaged as 
having a primacy over Rouen, Tours and Sens, respectively in Lugdunensis 
secunda, tertia and quarta. 18 Pseudo-Isidore thus yielded a model according 
to which patriarch/primate was superior to metropolitan and metropolitan to 
bishop. 19 

Within the diocese, it suggested a structure on the analogy of a sea-going 
ship: God was proprietor ( dominus ) and Christ was pilot (gubernator •); the 
bishop was look-out {prorata), priests the sailors ( nautae ), deacons the stewards 
(. dispensatores ), and catechists were like mustermen ( nautologi ); the whole body 
of Christians were as marines {ephibati). w At the apex of the church, Pseudo- 
Isidore suggested for the papacy a positive but not an absolute superiority. By 
its own form as a collection including many papal decretals, it placarded the 
authority of the apostolic see, which had sole power to convene synods; no 
synod had legal validity which was not assembled under and endowed with its 
authority. 21 Yet order was respected: all bishops shared in St Peter’s commission; 
if Rome was superior in and over the hierarchy, the rights of all grades must 
be assured. 22 

How the liturgical and canonical ideas that have been indicated came to- 
gether is nowhere better illustrated than in a letter of 1079 in which Pope 
Gregory VII informed the archbishops of Rouen, Tours and Sens that he had 
confirmed the primacy of Lyons: 

As you know, my brothers, the apostolic see . . . has established bishops, abbots and 
primates in various provinces and kingdoms. By its appointment and authority, the 
church of Lyons is acknowledged for long to have held a primacy over the four provinces 
of Lyons, Rouen, Tours and Sens. Therefore we . . . wishing to follow the examples of 
the holy fathers and relying on their power, desire at a due time to confirm the primacy 
of Lyons that they established and sanctioned by their decrees. To this end divine 
providence disposed that grades and different orders should be distinct; for, this being 
so, as long as the lesser revered the greater and the more powerful cared for the lesser, a 
single concord would arise from diversity. Things would fit together, and the discharge 
of every office would be duly ensured . . . The pattern of the heavenly hosts tells us that 

18 Fuhrmann (1972-4), pp. 146-7, 198, 333-4; see also Notitia Galliarum, MGH Auctores antiquissimi 

ix, pp. 352-612. 

19 Pseudo-Isidore, Decretales, pp. 79-80. 

20 Ibid., pp. 34—5. For another hierarchical model for grades within the church, see the ‘Ordinals of 

Christ which exhibited Christ during his earthly life as rising up the grades of holy orders: Reynolds 


21 Pseudo-Isidore, Decretales , p. 19. 22 Ibid., pp. 145-6. 

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The structure of the church, 1024—1073 

2 35 

the creation cannot be arranged, nor can it survive, in a single and undifferentiated 
equality; the fact that there are angels and archangels shows that they are not equal, for 
as you know the one differs from the other in power and order. If such degree exists 
among the sinless, what man can refuse to be subject to this dispensation? . . . Each 
office is healthfully discharged because there is a single superior to whom all may 
refer . 23 

Such a comprehension of the hierarchy of heaven and earth characterised the 
mid-eleventh century. But there was little doctrinal heresy or controversy to 
stir men, and debates about sacerdotium and regnum largely lay in the future. If 
conceptually there was an all-pervading sense of vertical structure, in historical 
actuality such structure as the church possessed is most clearly to be seen in 
horizontal cross-section, and at the level of bishops and kings. For the situation 
varied from region to region, according to the character and effectiveness of 
the royal power. A caveat must here be entered: this chapter is concerned with 
the secular church - the church of popes, bishops, lesser clergy and laity, not 
with the monastic order. The restriction is one that the eleventh century would 
have thought artificial, for in its experience the secular and monastic orders 
were interconnected. The monks catered for many of the spiritual needs of the 
secular clergy and laity especially the aristocracy; they were the intercessors par 
excellence in all contingencies of life and death . 24 Monastic prayers and alms 
were an indispensable support for a world whose functional structure was often 
understood in terms of those who pray, those who fight and those who work, 

23 Gregory vn Registrum VI. 35: ‘Sicut novit fraternitas vestra, sedes apostolica, cui licet indigni Deo 
auctore presidemus, divina gratia inspirante Spiritu sancto edocta per diversas provincias et regna 
presules archiepiscopos et primates ordinavit. Cuius constitutione et auctoritate Lugdunensis ec- 
clesia primatum super quattuor provincias, videlicet Lugdunensem Rotomagensem Turonensem et 
Senonensem per annorum longa curricula obtinuisse cognoscitur. Sanctorum igitur patrum nos, in 
quantum Deo favente valemus, exempla sequi cupientes ecclesif memoratf primatum, quern ipsi 
decretis suis constituerunt atque sanxerunt, eorum freti potestate subinde confirmare studemus. 
Ad hoc enim diving dispensationis provisio gradus et diversos constituit ordines esse distinctos, ut, 
dum reverentiam minores potioribus exhiberent et potiores minoribus dilectionem impenderent, 
una concordia fieret ex diversitate, contextio et recte officiorum gigneretur administratio singulo- 
rum. Neque enim universitas alia poterat ratione subsistere, nisi huiusmodi magnus earn differentia 
ordo servaret. Quia vero creatura in una eademque fqualitate gubernari vel vivere non potest, 
9elestium militiarum exemplar nos instruit, quia, dum sint angeli sint archangeli, liquet, quia non 
fquales sunt, sed in potestate et ordine, sicut nosti, differt alter ab altero. Si ergo inter hos, qui 
sine peccato sunt, ista constat esse distinctio, quis hominum abnuat huic se libenter disposition! 
submittere? Hinc etenim pax et caritas mutua se vice complectuntur et manet firma concordie in 
alterna et Deo placita dilectione sinceritas, quia igitur unumquodque tunc salubriter completur 
officium, cum fuerit unus, ad quern possit recurri, prepositus.’ Gregory followed this by a long 
citation from Pseudo-Isidore: Decretales, p. 79 . 1 am most grateful to Professor D. E. Luscombe for 
pointing out that from ‘Ad hoc enim’ to ‘possit recurri, prepositus’ Gregory was quoting Gregory I, 
Registrum v.59, lines 1— 19. 

24 Schmid and Wollasch (1967). 

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and in which those who pray might include monks and secular clergy - the 
clerical order as opposed to the lay. 25 

If the monastic order is set aside, the organisational strength of the church 
was greatest at the level of bishoprics and their association in provinces, and in 
the regions where royal power was at its most effective. 

At the heart of Europe lay the German dominions of the Salian kings. Only 
after c. 1073, at first in sources hostile to the king and in papal letters, did they 
begin to be often regarded as a German kingdom ( regnum Teutonicum) . z6 Thus, 
the Salian lands owed much of their coherence to the six church provinces that 
largely corresponded to them. The most extensive province was that of the 
Rhineland see of Mainz, comprising sixteen dioceses from Verden in the north 
to Chur in the south. It included Prague, which reached the River Oder, 
and covered Bohemia, whose dukes owed services to the Salian kings to whose 
lordship it belonged. The other provinces encircled Mainz. In the north, that of 
Bremen included a few German sees. To its south-west, Cologne and Trier, with 
six and four constituent dioceses respectively, included, but spread beyond, the 
duchies of Lower and Upper Lorraine. To the south-east, in the Danube region, 
the province of Salzburg consisted of six German dioceses. Mainz, Bremen, 
Cologne and Salzburg had all been archbishoprics since Carolingian times, and 
Trier for much longer; Trier, indeed, cherished claims to a primacy within the 
Gallic province of Belgica prima. 27 The final province of Magdeburg, which 
the emperor Otto I established in 967, comprised six dioceses between the Elbe 
and the Oder. 

This compact German church was in all major parts except the province of 
Bremen familiar with the king as he itinerated his kingdom. It is no longer pos- 
sible to speak, unless with much qualification, of an ‘imperial church system’ 
(. Reichskirchensystem ) of the Ottonians and early Salians: the word ‘system’ sug- 
gests too much structure and organisation; the vicissitudes of personal alliances 
and conflicts were too complex for there to be a constitutional order with the 
king using appointments to bishoprics and abbacies to contain the dukes and 
lay aristocracy. 28 Nevertheless, the bishops owed and discharged services to the 
king which made them his associates in upholding the kingdom and which of- 
ten brought them together. The royal itinerary was of major importance. While 
the early Salian kings did not visit every bishopric, they frequently received 

25 Amongst many discussions, see especially Duby (1978) and Flori (1986). For the monastic order see 
chapter 10 below. 

26 Muller-Mertens (1970). Weinfurter (1991), 1, pp. 55-9 6, is an indispensable work of reference for 
this and every aspect of the Salian church. 

27 Leo IX, Ep. 3, PL 143, cols. 594-6, Victor II, Ep. 15, PL 143, cols. 826-7. 

28 Santifaller (1964); Reuter (1982); Engels (1991), pp. 488, 514-41; Weinfurter (1991), 1, pp. 54-8, 

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The structure of the church, 1024—1073 237 







Conrad II 

Henry III 

Hava ria 





DaV al la 





































































Sources: Zielinski (1984), p. 208; cf. Metz (1978), pp. 126-7. Thanks 
are due to Franz Steiner Verlag Wiesbaden GmbH, Stuttgart, for 
permission to use the above data. 

episcopal hospitality for themselves and their court. 29 The above Table shows 
which cities Conrad II and Henry III visited at least three times. 

The bishops’ hospitality was part of a threefold service ( servitium regis) which 
also required that they attend the king’s court at solemn gatherings and that 
they provide military contingents for his host, especially upon expeditions to 
Italy. Upon such expeditions, especially if an object were imperial coronation 
by the pope, many bishops themselves accompanied the king. 30 At all times, 
the court mattered greatly to the bishops: there, many of them were elected or 
their elections were confirmed, and they were invested with the ring, and under 
Henry III and his son the staff, which were the tokens of their office. The nerve- 
centre of royal administration, and therefore to a large extent of the church, 

29 Fleckenstein (1966), p. 219; Metz (1978), pp. 87-9, 126-7; Zielinski (1984-), 1, pp. 205-9. 

30 Zielinski (1984-), 1, pp. 281-3. 31 Fleckenstein (1966). 

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was the king’s chapel. 31 Staffed by clerks who looked after the king’s relics 
and the divine worship of his household and court, it discharged secretarial 
and administrative duties. It was at the heart of the personal relationships and 
loyalties that made up the strength of the kingdom. Its duties included the 
management of the royal itinerary. Its clerks were recruited widely in Germany 
and Italy, with many sons of aristocratic families which were thereby bonded 
with the king. Many bishoprics were filled by its clerks, who provided the king 
with prelates of proven loyalty and competence. Active royal chaplains were 
often provided with canonries not only at collegiate churches like St Simon 
and St Jude at Goslar but also in cathedrals. 32 Serving their canonries and the 
royal chapel by turns, they both facilitated royal control over the kingdom and 
made for the unity of the German church. German kings and other royalty were 
admitted to spiritual confraternity with a number of cathedrals; 33 together with 
the almsgiving that was a royal public duty, such confraternity served further 
to draw the church together about the king. 34 

Such manifestations did not give rise to an institutional structure, yet they 
helped powerful and competent kings like Conrad II and Henry III as medi- 
atores cleri et plebis to hold society together and so to give unity and identity 
to the church which acknowledged their authority. But when the king was a 
child, as during the long minority (1056-65) of Henry IV, and still more from 
1073 when the king was at odds with the princes and from 1080 when ecclesi- 
astical schism supervened, the vulnerability of the German church to discord 
and division would become tragically apparent. 

For most of the period under consideration, the Salians ruled the king- 
doms of Burgundy and Italy as well as Germany. Conrad II acquired the 
kingdom, as distinct from the duchy, of Burgundy in 1032. Ecclesiastically, 
it comprised the whole or part of seven provinces: Besanjon, Lyons, Vienne, 
Arles, Aix, Tarentaise and Embrun. Especially under Archbishop Hugh (1031- 
66), Besanfon supported the Salians; its proximity to the Great St Bernard Pass 
made its loyalty critical. But it was remembered that most of the kingdom had 
belonged to the Roman provinces of Gallia Narbonensis and Gallia Lugdunen- 
sis. It was mainly Romance-speaking, and all four suffragan sees of Lyons - 
Autun, Chalon, Langres and Macon - lay outside its boundaries. From the 
foundation of Cluny in 909/10 to that of Citeaux in 1098, the province of Lyons 
was a cradle of monastic reform which was particularly effective in France. Bur- 
gundian orientation towards France was illustrated in 1079 by Gregory VII’s 
confirmation to Lyons of primacy over Gallia Lugdunensis. 35 Thus, the church 
in the kingdom of Burgundy had little coherence as such. 

32 Zielinski (1984-), 1, pp. 259-75. 33 Groten (1983). 

34 For Salian almsgiving, see Schmid (1984), esp. pp. 706-12. 

35 See above, p. 234-5. 

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The structure of the church, 1024—1073 239 

The limits of the Italian kingdom followed those of the Lombard, and later 
Frankish, lordships in northern and central Italy. But royal control of church 
and lay affairs was not a matter of lines on a map; still less than in Germany 
was there a settled ‘imperial church system’. 36 Royal rights depended upon 
the consensus with which they could at any time be established and upon 
the power by which they might be enforced. They shaded off with decreasing 
intensity from north to south; even in 1073 the oath of fealty to the pope of a 
Norman prince of Capua referred to the fealty that he also owed to the Salian 
king, reflecting a papal and royal condominium. 37 Royal claims over churches 
were often latent but not dead. 

The north of the peninsula comprised three large church provinces — Milan 
in Lombardy and Liguria, Aquileia in Istria and part of Lombardy, and Ravenna 
mostly in the Romagna. Each metropolis had a proud self-consciousness, and 
each controlled a province of some fifteen to twenty suffragan sees, usually 
themselves extensive. Grado retained patriarchal claims in Istria and Venice 
which Aquileia resisted but the reform popes countenanced. The metropolises 
assumed attitudes of their own which compounded the lack of cohesion 
amongst them: by and large, Aquileia gave the German king active support 
and Ravenna gave him its tacit acceptance; Milan’s claim to independence led 
to such spirited resistance as Archbishop Aribert II (1018-45) put up to Conrad 
II. 38 Salian descents into Italy were infrequent, but they were occasions for 
Italian episcopal assemblies; when Henry III held a general synod at Pavia in 
October 1046, three-quarters of the forty bishops named in its acta were north 
Italians. 39 Many Germans were appointed to bishoprics. But in all normal cir- 
cumstances, the north Italian church was too distant from the royal presence 
and power for it to acquire the corporate identity that the church in Germany 

The many central Italian dioceses were ecclesiastically the direct subjects 
of the Roman church. Most of them were small. They were sometimes said 
to constitute a provincia Romana-, however, there was no organised province. 
But before and after 1046, the bishops’ attendance at papal synods in Rome 
was substantial. Twenty-six attended Leo IX’s synod in April 1050, and some 
forty-five attested the Election Decree of 1059. 40 Their value in providing a 
forum at papal synods should not be underestimated. Over bishoprics in the 

36 For the background, see Pauler (1982), esp. pp. 164-73. 

37 Gregory VII, Registrum 1.21a; for south Italy in general, see Deer (1972). 

38 For the north Italian provinces, see Schwartz (1913); for Aribert, Cowdrey (1966). For the position 
of Ravenna, over which the papacy had ecclesiastical and political claims arising from the ancient 
exarchate, see Ziese (1991), pp. 26-35. 

39 MGH Constitutiones 1. 94—5, no. 48. 

40 For attendance in general, see Tangl (1932); for the Election Decree, Jasper (1986), pp. 109-19. 

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margraviate of Tuscany, Liguria and the duchy of Spoleto, the Salian king could 
claim a right of appointment and investiture. Thus, when in 1075 Henry IV 
nominated bishops of Fermo and Spoleto without consulting Gregory VII, the 
latter’s objection turned upon the king’s giving the sees to clerks unknown to 
himself, not on the king’s claim to appoint. 41 Over the densely concentrated 
sees of the Pentapolis, Roman Tuscany and the Roman Campagna, the pope 
had direct authority. 42 

In the south, the organisation and structure of the church were even less 
settled, largely on account of political factors such as the vicissitudes of the 
Lombard principalities, the Norman incursions and settlement, and the exis- 
tence until the fall of Bari in 1071 of a Byzantine catapanate. Dioceses were 
numerous and usually small. An older archbishopric like Benevento had a 
provincial organisation in its region. But from the mid-tenth century a num- 
ber of sees burgeoned into archbishoprics merely to satisfy urban pride. Not 
until the early twelfth century can there be said to have been a metropolitan 
structure in south Italy. 43 There is no sense in which one can speak of an 
Italian church; ecclesiastically as politically, Italy was a land of regions and of 

The diocesan and provincial structure of the French church in general fol- 
lowed the organisation of Roman Gaul. To western Belgica there corresponded 
the province of Rheims; to Gallia Lugdunensis the provinces of Rouen, Tours, 
Sens and most of Lyons; to Aquitania those of Bourges, Bordeaux and Auch; 
and to Gallia Narbonensis west of the River Rhone that of Narbonne. Since 
the mid-ninth century, the see of Dol had claimed metropolitan authority 
over Brittany. Within the nine established provinces, episcopal sees usually 
represented Roman civitates. They were numerous and small in the south, 
fewer and larger in the central provinces of Bordeaux, Bourges and Lyons, and 
of middling size and number between the Loire and the Somme. Thus, the 
province of Rouen comprised seven dioceses of comparable and manageable 
size. Many sees had lists of bishops beginning in or soon after Roman times 
which were headed by saints whose relics and legends were preserved and 
cherished. Such continuity brought strength and cohesion to a France whose 
political structure was weak and fragmented through a thoroughgoing morcelle- 
ment since Carolingian times. Whereas in Germany the kings brought unity to 
the church, in France the church gained a measure of unity by supporting the 

41 Gregory VII, Registrum hi. io. 

42 e.g. Die Briefe des Petrus Damiani 1. 153-4, no. 16, cf. 111. 543-4, no. 147. Toubert (1973) is fundamental 

for Latium, as well as for many wider matters. Canon 6 of the council of Nicaea (325), on the bishop 

of Rome’s power over the surrounding region, should be recalled. 

43 Klewitz (1932-3). 

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The structure of the church, 1024—1073 


For politically, and therefore in terms of what royal power could bring to 
the church, France stood in contrast to Germany. The Salian kings had no 
true demesne but in their itineraries ranged widely throughout their king- 
dom; the Capetians seldom travelled outside the small but compact demesne 
which formed a narrow principality from Compifegne in the north to Orleans 
in the south. Beyond the River Loire they had meagre authority. Neverthe- 
less, an adjunct to their power was the so-called ecclesiastical demesne which 
complemented their temporal lands and rights. Its principal constituents were 
the ‘royal’ sees where the king had the rights of nominating bishops and of 
administration during vacancies. As precisely as can be determined, the first 
Capetian, Hugh Capet (987-96), in this sense controlled the archbishoprics of 
Rheims (which claimed a primacy in Gallia) 44 and Sens, and the bishoprics of 
Beauvais, Chartres, Laon, Langres, Le Mans, Le Puy, Meaux, Orleans, Paris, 
Senlis, Soissons and Tournai. Robert the Pious (996-1031) gained the archbish- 
opric of Bourges and the bishoprics of Auxerre, Chalons-sur-Marne, Macon 
and Troyes. Henry I (1031-60) lost Le Mans, but Philip I (1060-1108) added 
the archbishopric of Tours and the bishoprics of Amiens, Chalon-sur-Saone 
and Therouanne. Thus, except for the Norman see of Rouen, all the arch- 
bishoprics north of the Loire became royal, as well as Bourges to the south. If 
such royal links with the church augmented Capetian authority, they also pro- 
moted a sense of identity in the church itself. The holders of royal bishoprics 
attended the king’s court, and so came together in ways that offset the infre- 
quency of major church councils. 45 The sacral character of Capetian kingship 
and its association with Rheims as the place of coronation also consolidated the 
church about the king. 4 * 5 Even in places remote from the royal demesne and 
bishoprics, churchmen dated their charters by the king’s regnal year. Laudes 
regiae texts show that a sense of the unity of the realm could temper diocesan 
particularism; 47 it also offset the close identity of church provinces with princi- 
palities where the Capetian writ ran seldom if at all - Rouen with Normandy, 
Bordeaux and Auch with Aquitaine, the aspiring province of Dol with Brittany. 
The mid-eleventh century saw no French equivalent to the serviceable German 
church; yet there was a common loyalty to the Capetian king which should 
not be underestimated in political or ecclesiastical terms. 

Germany, Burgundy, Italy and France were the heartlands of Latin Christen- 
dom. The framework of dioceses and provinces was even there not everywhere 
settled; ancient dioceses were sometimes combined or new ones established. By 
and large, however, it was mapped out; customs and loyalties were deep-rooted 

44 Anselmus Historia dedicationis. 

45 Lemarignier (1965), pp. 51—5, in— 19, and the relevant maps and tables. 

46 Schramm (i960), 1, pp. 112-16. 

47 See esp. the texts in Cowdrey (1981), pp. 68-9, 74-6. 

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and strong. Around the heartlands lay peripheral regions where ecclesiastical 
organisation was more tentative, even missionary. From the heartlands, bish- 
ops, kings and not least popes increasingly manifested their concern. There 
was often a genuine desire that, in fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies, 48 
all peoples should come to Christian obedience within the church. Politically, 
too, the popes became aware that Christian kingdoms on the periphery might 
check and balance intractable rulers in France and Germany. 49 

To begin in the south, the Norman conquest of Sicily from the Muslims 
started only in 1061, though in 1050 Leo IX had ordained Cardinal Humbert 
of Silva Candida to be its archbishop. 50 Most of Spain, too, remained Muslim. 
But above a frontier zone running south of the River Douro to its source 
and then north of the River Ebro to near Barcelona, there were organised 
Christian kingdoms and principalities with bishops who depended upon their 
rulers. The bishoprics were mainly in the north-west and north-east: two each 
in Galicia and Castile and three in Leon; east of Oca-Burgos there was only 
Pamplona in Navarre until the four bishoprics of Catalonia. The memory of 
the five provinces of Visigothic times remained, but as yet there was no revival 
of provincial organisation. Such common action as there was took the form 
of councils summoned by kings (Coyanza, c. 1055, Jaca, c. 1063), or by a papal 
legate (Gerona, c. 1068). 51 

The British Isles must be regarded as on the periphery of Latin 
Christendom. 52 Like Gaul, Britain south of Hadrian’s Wall and east of the 
Welsh Marches had been Romanised, but unlike Gaul the Germanic set- 
tlements largely obliterated Romanisation. By contrast with the duchy of 
Normandy with a single province of Rouen divided into seven ancient and man- 
ageable dioceses, organised Latin Christianity in England began only with Pope 
Gregory the Greats mission in 597 of St Augustine of Canterbury. Gregory’s 
neat plan for two equipollent provinces centred upon the Roman cities of 
London and York, each with twelve suffragan dioceses, 53 had no relation to 
reality. Augustine established the southern metropolis where it has always re- 
mained, in the then paramount kingdom of Kent. Over the centuries, the 
church developed piecemeal, in response to the vicissitudes of war, politics and 
royal power. 

Thus, between 1024 and 1073, the English church comprised the two 
provinces of Canterbury and York, which became an archbishopric in 735. Ap- 
proximately, they divided England at the River Humber. Canterbury included 

48 E.g. Psalms 19(18): 1-6, Isaiah 60: 1-14. 49 Cowdrey (1989). 

50 Richer, Gesta Senoniensis ecclesiae 11.18; Leo IX, Ep. 38, PL 143, col. 6461). 

51 O’Callaghan (1975), pp. 306-8. 

52 Cowdrey (1989); Brett (1975) has important material on the eleventh century. 

53 Bede, Ecclesiastical History 1.29. 

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The structure of the church, 1024—1073 243 

a maximum of fifteen dioceses, though when the Normans arrived in 1066 the 
combining of sees had reduced the number of bishops to twelve. Some bish- 
oprics were excessively large, for example Dorchester/Lincoln, which sprawled 
across England from the Thames to the Humber; in this form it orginated in 
a late tenth-century agglomeration, in face of Viking invasions, of the dioce- 
ses of Lindsey, Leicester and Dorchester. York had only the one suffragan see 
of Durham, and could not from its province muster the three bishops who 
were needed at episcopal ordinations. 54 Over-large and, except for the city 
of York, thinly populated, the see of York had since the late tenth century 
sometimes been held by the bishops of Worcester. Even Archbishop Aldred 
(1044-69) intended to hold both sees, although after Pope Nicholas IIs veto 
upon this he resigned from Worcester. The first Norman archbishop, Thomas, 
claimed that the sees of Dorchester, Worcester and Lichfield belonged to his 
province. In 1072, the council of Winchester confirmed that its boundary was 
the Humber, but it awarded York metropolitan authority ‘up to the furthest 
limits of Scotland’. 55 

Although York’s claim to such authority was not finally abandoned until 
1192 when the Scottish church was organised as an independent province, it 
was never for long made good. Scotland itself had a number of bishops, but no 
episcopal organisation. Its bishoprics were poorly endowed, had fluctuating 
areas of authority, and were entirely at the disposal of the Scottish kings, 
who were responsible for long vacancies. Wales and Ireland, too, experienced 
systematic ecclesiastical organisation only in the twelfth century. The most 
striking feature of the mid-eleventh-century Welsh church was its isolation; 
even the thorough Archbishop Lanfranc of Canterbury seems to have had no 
plans for it. It had no kind of unity; there was only a number of bishops in 
undefined areas that were themselves familial or tribal. Ireland had no vestige of 
imperial Romanisation to recall. Politically it was divided amongst contending 
dynasties. Only at Dublin was there a bishop with some claim to territorial 
authority. Church life usually centred upon larger monastic churches whose 
abbots might or might not be bishops; not seldom they were laymen. 56 (The 
term ‘monastic’ loosely describes mother churches of regions, with no necessary 
implication of regular life.) 

In Scandinavia, the mid-eleventh century saw the apogee and frustration, 
but not the end, of persistent endeavours by the archbishops of Hamburg- 
Bremen, especially Adalbert (1043-72), to make good an authority based upon 
its missionary past and upon its papal privileges over still rudimentarily organ- 
ised churches in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. One of Adalbert’s plans was 

54 Barlow (1979), pp. 208-31. 55 Councils and Synods 1/2, no. 91/m. 

56 Duncan (1975), pp. 257-9; Davies (1987), pp. 172-9; Watt (1970), pp. 1-9. 

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244 H. E - J- COWDREY 

to develop his German province of Hamburg-Bremen and a Danish province 
with its own archbishop, so that he would be in a position, on Pseudo-Isidorian 
assumptions, to establish a northern patriarchate. Pope Leo IX gave his plan 
some countenance, but his non-German successors were cautious. The ambi- 
tions of the archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen were also regarded askance by 
the Scandinavian kings, who wished to use the church to fortify their own do- 
mestic position. When Cnut the Great of Denmark and England (1016-35) in 
1022 appointed bishops of Roskilde, Schonen and Fiinen, he turned to Canter- 
bury for their consecration. His nephew Svein Estridson (1047-74/ 6) hindered 
Danish bishops from attending Adalbert’s proposed synods, and in his reign 
the number of Danish bishops increased to nine. By 1073, Svein was looking 
for guidance in church matters to Rome, where Pope Gregory VII was more 
than willing to provide it. But, like his Norwegian and Swedish neighbours, 
his wish was to be master of his national church. 57 There were Scandinavian 
bishops, but little church organisation. 

In the east, the years 1024-73 saw irreversible if sometimes troubled develop- 
ment in Poland and Hungary towards settled church provinces in independent 
monarchical states; Bohemia fared differently. When the emperor Otto I at last 
set up the archbishopric of Magdeburg, he intended it to be the metropolis of 
the Slav lands. However, in 1000 Otto III, in collaboration with Pope Silvester 
II and Duke Boleslav Chrobry (996-1025), founded the Polish metropolis 
of Gniezo with four suffragan sees, three of which - Cracow, Wroclaw and 
Poznan - proved viable. In the same year the name Poland made its historical 
appearance, and in 1025 Boleslav took the title of king. A time of troubles 
followed his death, but in the mid-ioyos Pope Gregory VII and Boleslav II re- 
habilitated the provincial organisation of the Polish church. Ecclesiastically as 
politically, Poland would not belong to the German empire. Bohemia eluded 
Boleslav Is designs of bringing it under Polish control; however, the see of 
Prague, founded in 973, remained in the province of Mainz, to become an 
archbishopric only in the mid-fourteenth century. The critical period in the 
Christianisation of Hungary was the reign of King Stephen I (1000-38). He 
proceeded slowly with its ecclesiastical organisation. His model seems to have 
been a decimal one, with ten dioceses, ten monasteries, and a church for every 
ten villages. The archbishop eventually settled at Gran (Esztergom). 58 

The final peripheral region of Latin Christendom is Dalmatia and Croatia, 
where Byzantine weakness allowed the popes and their legates increasing scope 
for intervention. The archbishop of Spalato (Split) had some nine suffragans, 

57 Hauck (1913-20), hi, pp. 634-64; Fuhrmann (1953-5), m, pp. 120-70; Seegriin (1967), pp. 48-87; 

Cowdrey (1989); Johanek (1991). 

58 For eastern Europe, see esp. Dvornik (1949) and Vlasto (1970). On Poland, see esp. Kioczowski 

(1974), and on Hungary, Waldmiiller (1987), esp. p. 107. 

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The structure of the church, 1024—1073 245 

and a series of synods was held at the metropolis. In 1022, Pope Benedict VIII 
sent a pallium, the token of metropolitan authority, to an archbishop of Ragusa 
(Dubrovnik). But the popes gained most advantage from the establishment 
of an independent principality of Zeta under Stephen Vojislav (c. 1040-51) 
and Michael (1051-81). Its metropolis was at Antivari (Bar); in 1067 Pope 
Alexander II sent a pallium to its archbishop, with permission to carry his 
cross through Dalmatia and Slavonia.’ 59 

All round Latin Christendom, kingdoms and principalities were in process 
of formation. Their rulers needed organised churches to reinforce their lord- 
ship and leadership. Thus, their lands tended to become coextensive with one 
or more ecclesiastical provinces with enough dioceses to make them viable. The 
bids of sees like Bremen and Magdeburg to extend their authority into Scan- 
dinavian and Slav regions did not prevail. The popes were active in confirming 
the ecclesiastical arrangements that were thus emerging, to secure their loyalty 
by their dealings with archbishops, and above all to maintain good relations 
with the kings upon whom the organisation and welfare of the churches largely 
depended. The papacy’s dealings with the peripheral regions of Christendom 
were a major factor in its own assertion of leadership in the church. 

If the structure of the church was most evident in a horizontal section across 
it at the level of diocese and province, there was also a pervasive sense of unity 
and universality which favoured the emergence of an ever firmer hierarchy. 60 
The long shadow of Carolingian reforms remained. 61 From 869 to 1123 there 
were no ecumenical or similar councils which, if they demonstrated the unity 
of the church, also highlighted its schisms, parties and controversies. Instead, 
homiletic and liturgical traditions instilled a sense of one faith and one church. 
To cite only examples, the Romano-Germanic Pontifical disseminated and ex- 
pounded the universal faith of the Quicumque vult and the Apostles’ Creed; 62 
the book called Speculator (The Watchman) with which Burchard of Worms 
ended his Decretum promoted a common understanding of providence, predes- 
tination and the last things; 63 whenever a Litany of the Saints was recited, the 
single fellowship of heaven and earth was invoked; above all, every celebration 
of mass reminded congregations in cathedrals as in manorial chapels that the 
church was Christ’s true body which was mystically present in the sacrament; 

59 Ragusa: Papsturkunden 896—1046, no. 541; Antivari: PL 14 6 , cols. 1323—4. For Dalmatia, see 
Waldmuller (1987), pp. 49-92. 

60 For this paragraph, see J.-F. Lemarignier in Lot and Fawtier (1962), pp. 7-48; Tellenbach (1988), 
pp. 31-4. 

61 Robinson (1988). 62 Le Pontifical romano-germanique du Xe siecle cxn— cxm. 

63 PL 140, cols. 1017—58. For the term speculator , see Isaiah 52:8, Jeremiah 6:17, Ezekiel 3:17, 33:2, 

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it was more than the sum of its constituent congregations, but complete in 
each of them and in every Christian. 

As clergy and people went about their lives, the church was, in practice, 
centred upon their diocese, with its saints, bishop, cathedral and organisation. 
There was nothing monolithic about the eleventh-century church: the apostolic 
see of Rome was, and became ever more effectively, the focus of unity; yet the 
church is still best regarded as a federation of dioceses within provinces. Parishes 
found their life and meaning within the diocese, as symbolised by the need to 
collect holy oil for baptism from the bishop each Maundy Thursday. To study 
the as yet only partially settled vertical structure of the church, it is best to 
begin with the diocese, then move downwards towards the parish, and finally 
upwards to the papacy. 

Dioceses showed much variety, from the often shapeless tribal bishoprics 
of the fringes of Europe, through the small urban dioceses of southern Italy, 
the ancient and manageable dioceses of France and the less ancient but still 
manageable dioceses of Germany, to great and proud metropolitan or primatial 
sees like Milan or Ravenna, Rheims or Mainz, Bremen or Canterbury. The 
common feature almost everywhere was the rule of a bishop who was the 
‘ordinary of his diocese, with extensive rights and duties permanently and ir- 
removably annexed to his office. They were in essence threefold: sacramentally, 
he had power to confer holy orders and to administer confirmation, as well 
as to bless holy oils, churches, altars and sacred vessels; as a teacher with an 
official magisterium, he instructed and admonished clergy and laity; he exer- 
cised a jurisdiction that enabled and required him to govern and legislate for 
his diocese / 4 With due allowance for the gaps between precept and everyday 
reality, it is instructive to see how the office of bishop was presented in the 
Romano-Germanic Pontificial / 5 In the ‘first feudal age’, the emphasis lay on 
the person of the bishop rather than his office, important though that was. The 
clergy and people petitioned their metropolitan for the bishop’s ordination; the 
lack as yet of reference to a cathedral chapter is significant. The bishop’s duty 
was immediately to all in his diocese: ‘that in conformity with the rules of disci- 
pline he may order and help us, and that under his guidance we may profitably 
serve the Lord’ 66 . He was pastor, teacher and giver of penance, according to the 
bishop’s role in Burchard’s Decretum, rather than administrator or executive; 
the diocese was a family rather than a hierarchy. To his see, his relationship was 

64 Le Bras (1959-64), pp. 366-8; Feine (1964), pp. 213-14. 

65 Le Pontifical romano-germanique du Xe siecle rvi-i.xx. 

66 ‘Quern nobis quantotius petimus ordinari pontificem, quatinus auctore domino regulariter nobis 
praeesse valeat et prodesse et nos sub eius regimine salubriter domino militare possimus, quia 
integritas praesidentium salus est subditorum et ubi est incolumitas obedientiae, ibi Sana est forma 
doctrinae’: ibid., lvi. 4. 

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The structure of the church, 1024—1073 


no less personal: he stood as its husband, and upon his death it was widowed. 7 
No century insisted more than the eleventh upon the marital symbolism of 
the ring that the bishop received at his ordination. He was committed like 
a husband to his church, whose rights and interests he must before all else 
cherish and vindicate. 

Especially in larger dioceses north of the Alps, the two centers of activity 
were the bishop with his household ( familia ) which was often itinerating, and 
the cathedral, where the bishop had his throne ( cathedra ) but where he spent 
only a limited time, even when present in his diocese. The bishop’s incentive 
to itinerate was one shared with lay magnates: the need to move from manor 
to manor in order to make the best use of material resources. But the itinerary 
was pastorally beneficial, for it brought the bishop into regular touch with the 
people and localities of his diocese. No bishop for whom evidence has survived 
provides a better example than the Englishman Wulfstan II of Worcester 
(1062-95). A Life by William of Malmesbury is supplemented by his Porti- 
forium, or pocket breviary, containing the liturgical material that, as monk- 
bishop and pastor, he needed upon his travels. 6S The directness of his ministra- 
tions in each of the aspects of a bishop’s duties is striking. He acted throughout 
in his capacity as bishop; the age of the bishop as papal judge-delegate had not 
arrived. Nor did diocesan officials stand between him and his subjects, great or 
small; his archdeacon prepared his way but was not his surrogate or substitute. 
He assiduously visited his whole diocese, confirming, preaching, reconciling, 
and consecrating churches. 

The frequently itinerant bishop was complemented by his cathedral, rooted 
at a known locality which canon law demanded should be a civitas. Wulfstan 
built a new cathedral at Worcester with a magnificent shrine for St Oswald 
and other saints of the see. He fostered and shared when at Worcester the 
liturgical life of its monastic chapter. It was in Germany that the development 
of cathedral chapters was perhaps most remarkable, particularly because of the 
revival of Carolingian reforms. 69 From the early eleventh century there was a 
widespread adoption of the Institutio canonicorum of the council of Aachen 
(816— 17) 70 which imposed on communities of clergy a rule requiring common 
property, refectories and dormitories, and which interposed a provost between 
the bishop and his cathedral clergy. The emperor Henry Ill’s benefactions in 

61 Ibid., lvi. 2 . 

68 William of Malmesbury, Vita Wulfstani (the Life, translated from a vernacular original written by 

Coleman, a monk of Worcester, between 1095 and 1113); Wulstan, Portiforium-, Mason (1990), esp. 

pp. 94-6, 156—95. Wulfstan’s diocesan administration may profitably be compared with the more 

structured order of a century later as described in Cheney (1980) , pp. 56-165. 

69 Schieffer (1976), pp. 255-89. For chapters in the longer term, see Le Bras (1959-64), 11, pp. 376-90. 

70 MGH Concilia. 11/1, no. 39A. 

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1046 to the cathedral of Speyer were a landmark in the material endowment 
of cathedrals. 71 In north Italy, a common and regulated life was similarly and 
widely required. In France, such a development came later and then mainly in 
cathedrals south of a line from Bordeaux to Belley. In pre-Norman Conquest 
England, bishops from or familiar with Lotharingian cathedrals introduced 
the canonical life at Exeter, Wells, Hereford and York. Under the Normans, 
this development was abandoned in favour of the insular peculiarity of the 
monastic chapter, which was eventually introduced in nine English cathedrals. 
In the remainder, there were moves towards a prebendal system, already devel- 
oping on the continent, whereby secular canons were individually supported 
by parcels of estates or prebends. Whether through regular or secular canons or, 
in England, by cathedral monasteries, cathedral chapters were widely being or- 
ganised and endowed as corporations. They were distanced from their bishops, 
and the functions of their individual members could be developed and diver- 
sified. By the 1070s, for example, Bayeux cathedral had a dean, a cantor and 
a treasurer but not yet a chancellor; German cathedrals like Worms, Bamberg 
and Hildesheim had for some decades had their schools under a scholasticus 7 2 
From c. 1050 the cathedral clergy found a new solidarity and purpose which 
marked them off from their parochial brethren. The time was approaching 
when the formal election of bishops, and aspirations for freedom of election, 
could centre upon the cathedral chapter. As undying corporations, chapters 
were on their way to providing the continuity of diocesan life: bishops were 
transient figures and of differing personal qualities; chapters had a continuous 
life and became jealous guardians of rights and traditions. Less beneficially, 
the way was prepared for tensions and conflicts between bishops and their 
chapters, as at Bamberg and elsewhere in the Germany of the Investiture Con- 

This picture of tentative steps towards the organisation of cathedral chapters 
must be qualified by referring to the proud and elaborate structures of some 
greater cathedrals. The Ambrosian church of Milan was lovingly described, 
perhaps c. 1075, by its chronicler Landulf Senior. He set out its ranks of clergy - 
twenty-four priests of superior rank, seven deacons and as many subdeacons, 
and numerous notarii and lectores, together with twelve priests called decumani 
who officiated in the winter church. A primicerius oversaw the external clergy. 
Landulf described at length the schools and hostels for pilgrims and the poor 

71 MGH DDHIII, nos. 167-74. The development of the chapter at Speyer up to its ‘Magna Carta of 
1101 (. MGH DDHIV 466) is discussed by Heidrich (1991). 

72 Many examples in MCSM 3, 8, esp. Violante (1977). For France, see Becquet (1977). Toubert (1973), 
11, pp. 840-54 is excellent on Latium. For German cathedrals, see Wattenbach and Holtzmann (1967- 
71), 11., pp. 426-8. For England, Edwards (1967), pp. 1— 19; Barlow (1979), pp. 239-42; Brooke (1985), 
pp. 9-11. 

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The structure of the church, 1024—1073 249 

which were attached to the cathedral. 73 Both north and south of the Alps, 
a number of cathedrals had their cardinales, or establishment of clerks who 
represented the cathedral as the ‘hinge’ ( cardo ) of the diocese and maintained 
its liturgical and other functions. 74 

Prescriptions for how bishops and archbishops should rule their dioceses 
and provinces made much of the councils and synods - in the eleventh cen- 
tury the terms were interchangeable - which brought rulers and subjects face 
to face. Many texts of the Pseudo-Isidorian Decrees included near their begin- 
ning an Ordo de celebrando concilio, and the Romano-Germanic Pontificial gave 
detailed directions for holding councils; if, upon early Spanish models, provin- 
cial assemblies were mainly envisaged, they could be readily adapted for the 
diocese. 75 Synods were occasions when a metropolitan or bishop exercised his 
authority in all its aspects - sacramental, magisterial and jurisdictional. There 
was liturgical observance and homiletic instruction, as well as the disclosure 
and correction of faults of all kinds among the clergy. Lay attendance, espe- 
cially by magnates and the bishop’s officials and vassals, was frequent, but the 
most solemn and important sessions were for the clergy alone. This marked an 
increasing division of society into clergy and laity which would be intensified 
in the age of the reform papacy. 

It is hard to know how fully the prescriptions of lawbooks and pontifi- 
cals were implemented. But in 1070, the legatine councils of Winchester and 
Windsor sought to introduce the best continental practice into an England 
which of late had not followed it; they prescribed regular episcopal synods, 
but left ambiguity as to whether they should occur twice yearly or only once, 
for canonical tradition was uncertain. 76 As regards procedure, there survives 
from Limoges some forty-five years earlier a prescription for such synods. They 
were to last for three days and to be held twice a year - at Pentecost and All 
Saintstide. All priests and clergy were to attend, save that one priest in each 
parish was excused for essential ministrations. Laity were excluded. On the 
first day the bishop solemnly celebrated mass and delivered a homily on the 
service of the altar, on priestly duties in general and on the cure of souls. There 
followed the correction of faults both disciplinary and doctrinal, and clerical 
disputes were composed. The remaining days were devoted to ensuring right 
teaching about the Trinity, especially in view of the Pseudo-Manichean errors 
that were a bugbear in Aquitaine. Invaders of churches were excommunicated, 

73 Landulf, Historia Mediolanensis 11.35-6; for the date, see Busch (1989). 

74 Fiirst (1967), pp. 119-91. 

75 Pseudo-Isidore, Decretales, pp. 22-4, cf. 364-5 (can. 3); Le Pontifical romano-germanique du Xe siecle 
LXXIX— l xxx. 

76 Councils and Synods 1/2, nos. 86/ix (can. 13, yearly), 87/111 (can. 4, twice yearly). For differing ancient 
precedents, see Gregory VII, Registrum, p. 66 n. 14. 

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penitents reconciled and ecclesiastical ordinances issued. The synod concluded 
with prayers for kings and those in authority, and for the peace and safety of 
the whole church. Attendance throughout the three days was rigorously en- 
forced, and the clergy were dismissed only after the bishop’s solemn blessing. 
His synod was thus an occasion for the bishop to gather his clergy around him 
for six days in each year. He exercised his authority directly and in detail for 
the good of his diocese, and reminded his clergy of their place in the universal 
church and in the realm. 77 

Perhaps only in a few dioceses and for limited periods was such fervour to 
be found, for Limoges in the days of the monk Adhemar who recorded its 
synodal practice was the centre of intense religious activity. 78 But in Germany, 
episcopal synods are well attested, even if they were held only once a year. 79 
Moreover, Burchard of Worms envisaged an itinerating bishop as holding lo- 
cal synodal assemblies of clergy and laity which would act with immediacy 
and rigour. 80 At Worcester, Bishop Wulfstan acted similarly, 81 though in pre- 
Conquest England regular diocesan synods were unknown except perhaps in 
Northumbria. However, from early in the eleventh century there survives a 
body of prescriptions similar to those of the synodal tradition on the conti- 
nent. 82 More importantly, hundred or wapentake courts, and shire courts where 
the bishop presided together with the ealdorman, pre-empted much synodal 
business, while a powerful king like Cnut issued ecclesiastical as well as lay 
laws. 83 There is no record of a post-Conquest episcopal synod until Wulfstans 
in 1092. 84 But between 1072 and 1085, King William I issued a writ requiring 
bishops and archdeacons no longer to hear pleas arising from the ‘episcopal 
laws’ in the hundred; those cited should come to the place appointed by the 
bishop, who should see that canonically appropriate justice was done. 85 The 

77 Delisle (1896), pp. 269-72, cf. Aubrun (1981), pp. 405-6. For other French examples, see Lot and 
Fawtier (1962), pp. 16-17. 

78 For Adhemar, see Landes (1990), esp. pp. 155-7, and the literature there cited. 

79 Hauck (1913-20), iv, pp. 6-9. 80 Burchard, Decretum 1.90-4. 

81 William of Malmesbury Vita Wulfitani 111.10. 

82 Councils and Synods 1/1, no. 63 (The Northumbrian Priests’ Law, c. 1008 x 1023, can. 44), cf. 
nos. 48 (The So-called ‘Canons of Edgar’, 1005 x 1008), 53 (Some Decisions at a Bishops’ Synod, 
early eleventh century), 54 (Injunctions on the Behaviour of Bishops, early eleventh century), 56 
(The Bishop’s Duties, early eleventh century). 

83 Ibid., 1/1, no. 64 (1, 11 Cnut, Christmas 1020 x 1022). 

84 Ibid., 1/2, no. 100; the authenticity of this document is not certain. 

85 Ibid., 1/2, no. 94: ‘Sed quicunque secundum episcopales leges de quacumque causa vel culpa inter- 
pellatus fuerit ad locum quern ad hoc episcopus elegerit et nominaverit veniat, ibique de causa vel 
culpa sua respondeat, et non secundum hundret sed secundum canones et episcopales leges rectum 
Deo et episcopo suo faciat.’ The heading ‘Ordinance of William I on Church Courts’ should not 
conceal that the writ did not use the word curia of an ecclesiastical tribunal. It makes no mention 
of the shire, and it must be presumed that no area so large as the shire or diocese was envisaged. 

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The structure of the church, 1024—1073 


writ may best be understood as seeking to restore to the church spiritual ju- 
risdiction which had become confused with secular business by promoting in 
England something like the itinerant episcopal justice for which Burchard of 
Worms had provided. 86 To this extent at least, ecclesiastical and lay pleas were 
to be separated in England, although at shire level bishops for long kept their 
place in the customary courts. 87 

Especially in major dioceses, the bishop needed agents at large to comple- 
ment, or if he were for long absent on political or other business, to deputise 
for, his own routine activities. In 1070 the English council of Windsor required 
bishops to appoint ‘archdeacons and other ministers of holy order’. 88 Except 
in Northumbria, archdeacons were few in late Anglo-Saxon England; under 
Archbishop Lanfranc, most if not all bishops appointed at least one; by the 
end of the century archdeacons were acquiring areas of territorial responsibil- 
ity. 89 In much of Europe, there had long been archdeacons. 90 Their origins 
were twofold. Originally, they had been a leading member of the bishop’s 
household with liturgical and administrative duties; in Norman Worcester, 
Wulfstan’s archdeacon thus functioned. 91 As cathedral chapters became dis- 
tinct from bishops’ households, the archdeacon often functioned similarly 
within them. Secondly, from Carolingian times, archdeacons served as in- 
termediaries within territorial areas between the bishop and the clergy and 
laity. Performing the deacon’s established role as the eye of the bishop’, they 
displaced the chorepiscopi, or subordinate rural bishops who tended towards 
dangerous independence; by c. 1050 chorepiscopi had long been eliminated 
in France and Germany but might still reappear in England. 92 By a long and 
piecemeal process, first household and then territorial archdeacons were widely 
established in the church; in 1066, for example, every diocese in Normandy had 

They could be supplemented by what the Windsor canon of 1070 called 
‘other ministers of holy order’, under such names as archpriests and rural deans. 
In post-Conquest England, there gradually emerged ‘rural chapters’ in which 
bishops, archdeacons and rural deans dealt with spiritual matters as foreshad- 
owed in the Conqueror’s writ of 1072 x 85. 93 On the continent, archpriests 

86 Burchard, Decretum I. 90-4; cf. canons 5-7 of the council ofWindsor (1070) for a possible incentive: 
Councils and Synods 1/2, no. 87/111. 

87 Leges Henrici Primi, cap. 7. 88 Councils and Synods 1/2, no. 87/111 (can. 5). 

89 Barlow (1979), pp. 247-9; Brooke (1985). 

90 Hauck (1913—20), iv, pp. 10—19; Hamilton Thompson (1943); Lemarignier (1965), pp. 19—22. 

91 As note 68. 

92 Barlow (1979), pp. 246-7. For the deacon as the oculus episcopi, see Pseudo-Isidore, Decretales, pp. 
34, 70, 87. Developments in Germany are well illustrated by Erkens (1991), with emphasis upon the 
differences between the dioceses of Trier and Cologne. 

99 Scammell (1971). 

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could be predominant within the diocese; in the vast diocese of Lyons, for 
example, there was only the archdeacon of the cathedral, but the diocese was 
divided into twenty-four archpretres. Similar arrangements were common in 
Italy. Only in such distant regions as Scandinavia were archdeacons never es- 
tablished. 94 Despite their jurisdictional superiority, archdeacons were seldom, 
if ever, in priest’s orders; this may serve as a reminder that, in the eleventh 
century, the existence of archdeacons and rural deans should be understood 
in terms of the performance of complementary functions within the diocese, 
not of a settled hierarchy. The diocese was the basic, and essentially integrated, 

A parochial system, as a network of circumscribed territorial areas generally 
corresponding to villages or urban wards within which a parish priest had sole 
responsibility for ministrations to all the inhabitants, was everywhere far from 
complete. Even Domesday Book (1086) recorded churches rather than parishes. 
Nevertheless, in most parts of Latin Christendom there was a drive towards 
the territorial parish. Everywhere, the chronicler Radulf Glaber remarked in 
the 1030s, the millennium had seen the world bestirring itself and donning 
a white mantle of churches from cathedrals to village chapels. 95 There was 
much reflection about the status and duties of the clergy; traditions of the 
Carolingian and the more distant past were searched, and the outcome was 
models that called for a diligent priest who lived close to a flock which he 
knew intimately. 96 Precepts about pastoralia envisaged an intimate locality 
within which most people were born, grew up, married, sinned, did good 
works, and eventually died. 

On the ground, the evolution of the medieval parochial system was pro- 
longed. 97 From the sixth century, bishops found it necessary to provide for 
regular divine service in major churches ( ecclesiae baptismales, plebes) as well 
as in their cathedral; there was also a complement of regional and village 
churches or oratories. This pattern originated in Spain, Gaul and north Italy; 
in Italy it persisted through the Carolingian age. But on both sides of the 
Alps, baptismal churches commonly passed into lay hands or became episco- 
pal proprietary churches. In Germany, England and eventually Scandinavia, 

94 Dahlerup (1967). 

95 ‘Erat enim instar ac si mundus ipse excutiendo semet, reiecta uetustate, passim candidam $ cclesiarum 
uestem indueret. Tunc denique episcopalium sedium fcclesias pene uniuersas ac cetera qu^que 
diuersorum sanctorum monasteria seu minora uillarum oratoria in meliora quique permutauere 
fideles’: Radolf Glaber, Historiarum libri quinque m.iv.13. 

96 For example, the discussion of baptism and holy communion in Burchard, Decretum iv— v, and the 
early eleventh-century regulations for the clergy in Councils and Synods 1/1, nos. 46-8, 64. 

97 Feine (1964), pp. 147-213 gives a comprehensive discussion of the developments referred to in this 

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The structure of the church, 1024—1073 253 

the spread of Christianity saw the foundation of churches similar to the south- 
ern baptismal churches, with responsibilities over large areas; the old minsters 
of Anglo-Saxon England are an example. Especially in the ninth and tenth cen- 
turies, kings and lords provided further places of worship by establishing upon 
their lands so-called ‘proprietary churches’ ( Eigenkirchen ), which they treated 
together with their clergy much as their secular possession and dependants. 98 
In the eleventh century, features of the ‘public’ system of baptismal churches 
with dependent chapels and of the ‘private’ system of proprietary churches 
persisted. But almost everywhere there was profound and strong movement 
towards the establishment of territorial parishes. 

It was in parts of Italy that the system of baptismal churches was most tena- 
cious. 99 Especially in the north, dioceses were divided into plebes (Italian: pievi), 
which were large districts with a ‘pieval’ church where baptisms were performed 
and tithes paid, with a small or large complement of local chapels {oratorio) 
for Sunday mass. 100 There were also many proprietary churches ( ecclesiae pro- 
priae ). Churches of all kinds had been widely feudalised, a circumstance that 
excited the fulminations of a reformer like Peter Damian. 101 Only in the twelfth 
century did the pievi crumble, to be replaced by parish churches that, within 
limited boundaries, provided a full range of parochial ministrations, including 
baptism. Yet social changes in Italy were also stimulating more rapid develop- 
ments. Some of the most far-reaching were in Latium. 101 There, the golden age 
of plebes cum oraculis had been the eighth and ninth centuries. They had been 
made obsolete by the phenomenon, widespread in Italy, of incastellamento: by 
deliberate seigneurial action, populations were concentrated in fortified settle- 
ments, usually upon hilltops. The castral church which was often part of the 
fortification became the main religious centre. Dioceses assumed the aspect of 
groups of castral churches; castral archpriests were, under the bishop, the key 
figures. The older pievi withered away; however, despite the depopulation of 
the open countryside local churches and oratories survived as hermitages or as 
places for the occasional celebration of their patron saints. By one means or an- 
other, the ground for a parochial network was being prepared. Especially when 
churches passed into monastic hands - and the eleventh century witnessed 
such monastic accumulations as Monte Cassino’s terra sancti Benedict z™ 3 - the 
more efficient organisation of ecclesiastical revenues and the dissemination of 

98 Stutz (1895) remains a classic discussion of the ‘proprietary church system’. 

99 See esp. Boyd (1952), pp. 47-128: Violante (1977). 

100 Wickham (1988), esp. pp. xxxii, 32-5, 87-110, 171— 3, and Maps 2 and 6, provides illustrations from 

101 E.g. Die Briefe des Petrus Damiani 11.369-75, no. 74. 

102 Toubert (1973), esp. n, pp. 789-933. 

103 Cowdrey (1983), pp. 2-7; Bloch (1986), 11, pp. 632-940. 

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254 H. E - J- COWDREY 

canon law as a guide to parochial life strengthened local churches materially 
and pastorally at the lowest level . 104 

In France, the transition to a territorial parochial system was farther ad- 
vanced than in Italy, yet there were common features . 105 The consequences of 
incastellamento had their parallel through the foundation within the enceintes 
of French castles of churches which became parochial centres to the detriment 
of adjacent major churches from which populations and revenues were drawn 
away. More important, since Carolingian times there had been a crescendo of 
reaction against ‘private’ churches . 106 What contemporaries deemed a rightful 
mode of lordship was restored by transferring proprietorship to monasteries 
and collegiate churches. The mid-eleventh century has illuminatingly, if with 
exaggeration, been dubbed an age of ‘the church in the power of the monks’ 107 . 
In France as in Italy, monastic control fostered parochial consolidation; for ex- 
ample, it became common to divide revenues between those of the church 
which accrued to the proprietor and those of the altar which accrued to the 
priest, thus settling his income and, indirectly, his duties. For the time being, 
the effect of monastic proprietorship was drastically to reduce episcopal con- 
trol. By the end of the eleventh century, a move to curb the power of monks 
over the secular church enabled bishops imbued with the standards of the papal 
reforms to reassert their authority and headship of their dioceses . 108 Such was 
the French way towards structured dioceses. 

Though internally showing regional differences, parochial development in 
England was remarkably similar . 109 There was an extensive survival of ‘old min- 
sters’ ( monasteria ) or baptismal churches staffed by groups of clergy who also 
served outlying chapels throughout an extensive area of jurisdiction ( hyrnesse ) 
which modern historians sometimes anachronistically call a parish (faro chid). 
(The eleventh century still used the term parochia of the diocese.) There had 
also been a proliferation of ‘local’ or ‘private’ churches with priests of their own; 
the ‘parishes’ of the old minsters were undergoing division amongst compa- 
rable local churches. Anglo-Saxon laws and homilies were already envisaging 
as standard the parishes with one priest exercising the full range of duties that 

104 Cowdrey (1983), pp. 26-7, 43-4. The part played by monasteries, especially in Italy, in disseminating 
canon law would repay fuller study. 

105 Lemarignier, in Lot and Fawtier (1962), pp. 3-139, and Aubrun (1986), pp. 69-105, offer general 
discussions; Aubrun (1981) includes a detailed study of the diocese of Limoges in the mid-eleventh 

106 Mollat (1949). 

107 Aubrun (1981), part 1, chap. 3: ‘L’ eglise au pouvoir des moines’. 

108 For the new episcopal model in Italy, see Toubert (1973), 11, pp. 806-40; a French example is Bishop 
Hugh of Grenoble (1080—1132) whose Life was written by Prior Guigo I of la Grande Chartreuse: 
PL 153, cols. 761-84. 

109 Barlow (1979), pp. 183-208; Blair (1988a); Blair (1988b) includes a number of regional studies. 

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The structure of the church, 1024—1073 255 

was elaborated in the early twelfth century by Gilbert of Limericks De statu 
ecclesiae. 110 

Two further comments may be added about developments at parochial level. 
First, the division of cities into a definitive pattern of territorial parishes was 
far from universally established. In Trier and Cologne, for example, it was well 
advanced during the eleventh century, whereas in Paris it had to await the 
twelfth century; 111 a document forged at Worcester in the mid-twelfth century 
which purported to record a synod of Bishop Wulfstan II in 1092 could rep- 
resent the city as then still comprising the single parish of the cathedral as the 
mother church. 112 Secondly, however they were constituted, urban and rural 
parishes were often complemented and reinforced in their work by local guilds 
with their own statutes; in them, clergy and laity collaborated in pursuance 
of spiritual, charitable and social ends. By, for example, promoting the build- 
ing of churches, guilds could assist towards the establishment of a territorial 
parochial system. But by their nature they stood, and remained, alongside the 
developing structure of bishop, archdeacon, rural dean and parish priest. Reli- 
gious organisation was never unitary or tidy. Spiritual and social self-help, and 
the institutions which they generated, were an essential ingredient of medieval 
church life that could not be reduced to order or control. 113 

If the structure of the church is considered from the diocese upwards to the 
papacy, the mid-eleventh century was a time of tentativeness and questioning; 
there was much thrusting and competition amongst dioceses and metropolises. 
The structure of the church was shifting and unformed; where there seems to 
be rigidity, it was the outcome of insecurity, not confidence. Much energy 
was expended in establishing the relative position of churches by developing 
the claims of their patron saints, in terms both of their rank in the heavenly 
hierarchy and of their prerogatives upon earth. In Italy, for example, Archbishop 
Alfanus of Salerno (1058-85) and other writers associated with Monte Cassino 
promoted the saints of particular sees and churches. At Salerno itself, the 
century between the discovery there in 954 of the relics of the apostle St 
Matthew and their rediscovery in 1080 saw the establishment of his cult; nearby, 
Amalfi followed suit with the cult of the apostle St Andrew. 114 Such local cults 
could lead to the narrowing of horizons that Italians call campanilismo ; but 

110 Gilbert of Limerick, De statu ecclesiae, PL 159, cols, ioooa— 1002A. 

111 Erkens (1991); Aubrun (1986), pp. m-12. 

112 ‘reversi in sanctam synodum affirmaverunt nullam esse parrochiam in tota urbe Wigrac’ nisi tantum 
matris ecclesie’: Councils and Synods 1/2, no. 100. The document has been shown by Dr Julia Barrow 
to be forged. 

113 Meersseman (1977); for England, see also Rosser (1988). 

114 Cowdrey (1983), pp. 39-42. 

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when, as at Salerno, the cults of minor patrons like Saints Fortunatus, Gaius and 
Anthes became subordinate to that of an apostle and evangelist, the standing 
of the see was correspondingly raised. 

One of the most striking examples of the promotion of a patron saint as part 
of a bid to reshape the pattern of ecclesiastical power in a region is that of St 
Martial at Limoges as attempted in the copious writings of the monk Adhemar 
of Chabannes (died 1034). 115 Martial was the first bishop of Limoges, probably 
in the third century. But according to the legends which Adhemar propagated, 
he had been a disciple of Jesus Christ and one of the seventy whom he sent 
out to preach (Luke 10:1-12); he was an eyewitness of the risen Christ, and 
St Peter sent him to evangelise Aquitaine. 116 Thus, he enjoyed the rank and 
status of an apostle. The vindication of Martial’s apostolicity was, in the first 
instance, intended to assist the monks of St Martial against the canons of a 
cathedral dedicated to the martyr St Stephen: an apostle trumped a martyr. 117 
But it also brought the see of Limoges the cachet of apostolic foundation, and 
so of being ‘first and mother of the churches of Gaul’, 118 where church life was 
being renewed according to the pattern of apostolic times. If Adhemar thus 
created a legend for the see of Limoges, he also brought to bear the province of 
Bourges to which it belonged; according to him, it fell to a provincial council 
in 1031 to rule that Martial’s name should be enrolled among the apostles." 9 
In 1031, Adhemar also brought the prestige of the papacy to bear by forging 
a letter of Pope John XIX, addressed to Bishop Jordan of Limoges with his 
clergy and to all the bishops of Caul. 120 Fantastic though it was, the cult of 
St Martial enlarged horizons. It made clergy and laity alike look to the ascent of 
authority from the diocese through the province to Rome itself. In such ways, 

115 For Adhemar, see esp. Aubrun (1981), pp. 202-17, Landes (1990), Callahan (1991). Especially sig- 
nificant sources for the present purpose are Adhemar’s Epistola de apostolatu Martialis, PL 141, cols. 
89-112 and the account of the council of Limoges (1031), Mansi, 19, cols. 507-48. 

116 ‘Illis temporibus civitas Lemovica ante omnes et super omnes Galliarum urbes eminebat, arcem 
regni Aquitanici tenens; et pervenit ad earn beams Martialis, qui a Domino per legationem bead 
Petri gentibus Aquitanicis est destinatus apostolus’: Mansi 19, col. 518B. 

117 Hence the monks’ concern to establish about Martial that ‘potius est apostolico de agmine, quam 
de confessorum, qui post martyres sunt, serie’: Mansi 19, col. 511E. 

118 Paris, Bibl. nat. MS lat. 2469, f. 90, cited by Herrmann (1973), p. 123 n. 43. 

119 Canon 1: ‘ut per omnes suarum dioeseseon ecclesias sancti Martialis doctoris Aquitaniae momen et 
memoria, non inter confessores, sicut inter nos negligenter a nonnullis fieri solitum erat, sed inter 
apostolos proponatur, sicut a Romana sede, et a pluribus antiquis patribus, secundum veritatem 
Spiritus sancti definitum est’: Mansi 19, col. 503AB. 

120 Papsturkunden 896-1046 , no. f 591: ‘Nos vero in petra firma educati, hunc, de quo loquimur 
Marcialem, utrum inter confessores an inter apostolos Jesus Christus, Dei Filius, cui corporaliter 
adhaesit et cuius gloriam vidit et benedictione est usus, annumeret, apostolum nominari posse 
diffinimus et aeque apostolica officia in divinis misteriis exhiberi sibi censemus.’ 

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The structure of the church, 1024—1073 257 

eleventh-century legend-building prepared men’s minds for the more firmly 
structured church of the centuries to come. 

All over Latin Christendom, leading sees were vying to claim their place in 
the ecclesiastical structure. Often, as in Italy and at Limoges, the primary means 
was to press the claims of patron saints and the traditions that gathered about 
them. A see which went to great lengths was Milan, which boasted foundation 
by St Barnabas, an apostle though not of the twelve, who was supposedly its first 
bishop, and by his disciple St Anatalon; Milan also made much of its fourth- 
century bishop and doctor St Ambrose, pressing its privileges to the extent of 
claiming that the Ambrosian church should not be subject to Roman laws and 
that the pope had no authority over its affairs. Milan had to contend with the 
claims that Ravenna established upon legends about St Apollinaris, believed to 
be its first bishop and martyr whom St Peter himself had sent there. Another 
rival was Aquileia, where it was believed that, when St Peter sent St Mark to 
establish Christianity in north Italy, Mark appointed St Hermagoras, its first 
bishop and martyr. 121 The eleventh century saw the apogee of such legend- 
weaving, and squabbles over precedence on its basis punctuate the century. In 
1027, Pope John XIX confirmed to Poppo of Aquileia and his successors that 
his see was ‘the head and metropolis of all the churches of Italy . 122 But in 1047, 
when the archibishops of Milan, Ravenna and Aquileia were at loggerheads 
over who should sit in councils at the pope’s right hand, Pope Clement II 
decided in Ravenna’s favour. Clement significantly took the opinion of the 
Roman bishops and clergy, ‘whose authority is the greater’. 123 Such rivalries 
not only heightened the self-awareness and claims of the sees in question, but 
also helped the papacy towards a comparable self-awareness and towards the 
greater exercise of its authority. The papal revival was itself, from one point 
of view, an intensification of the claims of St Peter, who with St Paul was 
prince of the apostles and martyr-patron of the Roman see. The eleventh- 
century papacy was called the apostolic see not the holy see, and the pope was 
the vicar of St Peter rather than the vicar of Christ. It built upon its Petrine 

North of the Alps, there was exploration of ideas about relations within the 
upper ranks of the church which could be extracted from the Pseudo-Isidorian 
Decrees. Partly on account of King Henry IV’s minority and difficult early 
years of personal rule, the German archbishops vied in seeking the advantage 
of their own metropolises. Siegfried of Mainz (1060-84) cherished aspirations 
for the primacy of his see which the circumstances of his time did not allow 

121 Cowdrey (1966) and (1968). See also the legends about Trier in its papal privileges: as note 27. 

122 Papsturkunden 896-1046, no. 578: ‘caput et metropolim super omnes Italiae ecclesias’. 

123 Ep. 3, PL 142, cols. 581-2: ‘quibus auctoritas est maior’ (582B). 

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him to implement. Adalbert of Bremen tried but failed to establish a northern 
patriarchate. In 1074, Pope Gregory VII thought it necessary to remind Anno 
of Cologne (1056-74) that, if the see of Cologne was dedicated to St Peter, this 
called for due obedience to the see of Rome. 124 In France, primatial aspirations 
tended to develop later than in Germany, to recall the Notitia Galliarum, and 
to follow Pseudo-Isidore by invoking papal authority; Pope Gregory VUs con- 
firmation of the primacy of Lyons provides an illustration. 125 Between the mid- 
eleventh and the mid-twelfth centuries, claims were also advanced in favour 
of Narbonne, Bourges, Vienne and Rheims; they provide an example of the 
long-term elaboration of French ecclesiastical structures which, as the Capetian 
kings imitated them, prepared the way for a strong Capetian kingdom. 126 In 
the eleventh century, the advantage was still to papal authority. More directly 
decisive in determining the ecclesiastical structure of a region was Archbishop 
Lanfranc of Canterbury’s largely successful bid to secure the primacy of his see 
over that of York. He was able to hold effective primatial councils in the 1070s 
and 1080s. His primacy was ambiguous in its significance: his councils were 
held under royal authority, and as he and his successor Anselm understood 
it the primacy was not entirely consonant with the ideas of the Gregorian 
papacy; 127 but in 1071-2, Lanfranc’s endeavours to secure the primacy led him 
to visit the Rome of Pope Alexander II, and in the long term his organisation 
of the English church prepared it for effective inclusion in the papally ruled 
western church of the rest of the middle ages. 128 

What did the hierarchical structure of diocese, province, primacy and pa- 
pacy to which the Pseudo-Isidorian Decrees directed attention amount to in 
practice? The degree and force of its realisation should not be exaggerated. The- 
oretical models were not all that influential: as H. Fuhrmann has well put it, ‘It 
was not Pseudo-Isidore but the church that was being discovered.’ 129 Church- 
men were exploring their authority through the everyday ups and downs of 
its exercise and in response to political and social circumstances. They had no 
blueprint for a renewed and restructured church. With only a few exceptions 
like Lanfranc’s England, 130 provincial and primatial councils were infrequent, 
although some were of major importance. Examples are Archbishop Aribo of 

124 For Mainz, Thomas (1970); for Cologne, Gregory VII, Registrum 1. 79, of 18 April 1074: ‘Si enim 
honorem beati PETRI non in totum sed in partem, Colonif et non Rome probaverimus te diligere, 
tu nos neque in totum neque in partem poteris habere.’ 

125 Above, pp. 234-5. 126 Lemarignier (1957). 

127 Southern (1963), pp. 127-32. 

128 For Lanfranc and the papacy, see Cowdrey (1994). 

129 Fuhrmann (1972-4), 11, pp. 346-53; particular instances are discussed in Herrmann (1973), 
pp. 74-108. 

130 Acta Lanfranci ; Councils and Synods ill, nos. 91-3, 95, 97-8. For Norman councils under William 
the Conqueror, see Foreville (1976). 

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The structure of the church, 1024—1073 259 

Mainz’s general synod of 1027 at Frankfurt, the records of which well illustrate 
current ideas of ecclesiastical order and precedence, 131 and Archbishop Siegfried 
of Mainz’s primatial council at Mainz (1071) which dealt with the simoniacal 
Charles, bishop-elect of Constance. 

Siegfried’s experiences between 1071 and 1074 are illuminating. After the 
council of Mainz, he fulsomely acknowledged papal authority: ‘Christ’, he 
wrote to Pope Alexander II, ‘has conquered in Peter, Peter in you, and you in 
me.’ 132 Such rhetoric barely concealed how fast the sand was slipping under 
his feet as popes took their stand upon St Peter’s authority. Before Alexander 
died in 1073, Duke Wratislav of Bohemia asked for papal legates to settle a 
controversy involving two Bohemian dioceses, Prague and Olmiitz, belong- 
ing to the province of Mainz. Next spring, Siegfried wrote to the new pope, 
Gregory VII, with studied deference to defend the rights of his see. In view 
of the ancient mother-and-daughter relationship between Rome and Mainz, 
Siegfried approached Gregory as the members of the body look to its head, 
and complained that, under Alexander, Mainz had been denied its canonical 
rights. With no reference to Siegfried as archbishop, Alexander had listened 
to accusations against the bishop of Prague, and had suspended him. Siegfried 
argued that the canonically correct course was for such a matter first to come 
before him as metropolitan for trial within the province. Only if it were insol- 
uble there should Siegfried himself have referred it to Rome ‘as to the head of 
us all’. 133 Such a graded conception of jurisdiction, with a hearing first within 
the province and by fellow bishops, and with an appeal to Rome only at the 
metropolitan’s discretion and as a last resort, was widely held. 134 But besides 
offering it much support, the Pseudo-Isidorian Decrees had also defended 
bishops against their metropolitans by offering them the protection of papal 
authority. 135 Gregory was anything but disposed to admit Siegfried’s opinion 
about a metropolitan’s role. In a devastating letter, he rebuked him for seeking 
to attract a Bohemian bishop’s case from papal judgement to his own. Those 
who had thus advised him knew nothing about canonical traditions and the 
decrees of the Fathers. No patriarch or primate could reverse papal decisions; 
Siegfried should not strive against the Roman church, for, as he well knew, 

131 MGH Constitutiones, i, pp. 85-6, nos. 40-2; Wolfhere of Hildesheim, Vita Godehardi, caps. 31-4. 

132 Ulrich of Bamberg, Udalrici Codex, nos. 36-8. Mainz was described as ‘metropolim totius Franciae, 
principalem vero pontificii sedem tocius Germaniae Cisalpinae’ (p. 70); Siegfried’s words were: 
‘Vicit tamen Christus in Petro, et Petrus in vobis, et vos in nobis’ (p. 79). 

133 Udalrici Codex , no. 40 (to ‘oramus et obsecramus’: p. 86). 

134 Diversorum patrum sententie, caps. 6-7. 

135 Pseudo-Isidore, Decretales, pp. 243-4; cf. the assertion that no bishop should suffer condemnation 
except by papal authority in Bishop Theoduin of Liege’s letter to King Henry I of France: PL 146, 
cols. 1439-42, at cols. 1439c, 1440B. 

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without its clemency he could not retain his position. Gregory would himself 
settle the Bohemian matter. 136 

When Siegfried’s neat view of a graded hierarchy of jurisdiction encountered 
Gregory’s reliance upon the prerogatives of the apostolic see, it was a house of 

The developments in the papacy between 1024 and 1073 are the subject of 
another chapter (part 2, chapter 1). But something may be said in conclusion 
about the way in which an ever-growing insistence upon papal prerogatives, 
such as Gregory’s rebuking of Siegfried illustrates, was affecting the structure of 
the church. At Rome, there was insistence upon the centrality and uniqueness 
of the apostolic see, upon which the whole church depended. As early as 1054, 
Pope Leo IX could write to the patriarch of Constantinople: 

As the whole door is governed by its hinge, so the well-being of the whole church is 
procured by Peter and his successors. And as a hinge remains still while the door is 
opening and closing, so Peter and his successors have unhampered judgement over the 
whole church, for the highest see can be judged by no one . 137 

The concentration of authority upon Rome was helped by the widening in 
1054 of the breach between Rome and Constantinople, which was one of 
five patriarchates in a different sense from that hitherto discussed. 138 Rome, 
Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem were from ancient times 
the chief sees of all Christendom which should agree together. But the last 
three of them were under the reality or the threat of Muslim domination. 
As the breach with Constantinople widened, it too became of less account at 
Rome, where ecclesiastical authority was increasingly concentrated. 139 It made 
possible the unprecedented role that, in 1063, Peter Damian proposed for the 
Roman see in and through the cardinal bishops: 

Now the Roman church, the see of the apostles, should imitate the ancient court of 
the Romans. Just as of old the earthly senate strove to subdue the whole multitude of 

136 Gregory vn, Registrum 1. 60. 

137 Ep. 100, PL 143, col. 765B: ‘sicut cardine totum regitur ostium, ita Petro et successoribus eius totius 
ecclesiae disponitur emolumentum. Et sicut cardo immobilis permanens ducit et reducit ostium, 
sic Petrus et sui successores liberum de omni ecclesia habent iudicium, quia summa sedes a nemine 
iudicatur.’ For ‘Petrine’ interpretations of papal authority, see Maccarrone (1989). 

1,8 Fuhrmann (1953-5), 1, pp. 112-13. 

139 For Leo IX’s view, see Ep. 100, PL 143, col. 763BCD. For continuing contact between Rome and 
Constantinople, see Cowdrey (1988). The five patriarchates receded only temporarily in western 
awareness, partly on account of the Latin capture of them in the crusading period: Antioch (1098), 
Jerusalem (1099), Constantinople (1204); thus, for example, canon 5 of the Fourth Lateran Council 
(1215) renewed the privileges of the ancient patriarchal sees and confirmed their order of precedence: 
COD, p. 236. 

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The structure of the church, 1024—1073 261 

peoples to the Roman empire, so now the ministers of the apostolic see, the spiritual 
senators of the church universal, should make it their sole business by their laws to 
subdue the human race to God, the true emperor . 140 

For Peter, the cardinal bishops were the eyes by which the apostolic see watched 
and guarded the world. 141 The apostolic see ruled uniquely and alone. 

It was against such pressures that a metropolitan like Siegfried of Mainz was 
concerned to plug the dykes; others, like Abbot Walo of Metz, rejoiced that 
Rome was the point at which all the radii of a circle converged. 142 

In practice, the papacy grew in effectiveness as head of the ecclesiastical 
structure fairly gradually; there were limited but real steps under the Tusculans, 
but even by 1100 there was a long way to go before the organisation of the 
later twelfth century was in place. In 1024, the papacy was weak and subject 
to Roman factions, and the Tusculan popes were not considerable men. Yet 
Rome’s prestige as the see of St Peter stood high. As a place of pilgrimage, 
and especially penitential pilgrimage which proclaimed the power of the keys, 
it was widely sought. 143 Archbishops, and some bishops, received from the 
pope, often personally, the pallium which declared their share in the apostolic 
office. 144 Nor should the range of the papacy’s business be underestimated, now 
that its correspondence has been meticulously edited. 145 But the range should 
not be exaggerated: the papacy was the universal giver of penance to grave 
sinners and of protection to monasteries; it was not yet the universal judicial 
ordinary, in practice as in theory, of later medieval centuries. 

The papal entourage in the Lateran palace, which began to be called the 
curia only at the end of the eleventh century, became equipped but slowly to 
deal with matters that were wider than the Roman liturgical round. 146 Under 
the Tusculans, papyrus was finally discarded in favour of more durable parch- 
ment, and the older Roman cursive script gave way to a more generally legible 
minuscule. As early as 1044, Peter, deacon of the Roman church, combined 
the offices of librarian and chancellor, thus assuming a key role in the papal 
secretariat that he fulfilled until 1050, when Leo IX was pope. 147 Leo’s election 
heralded farther-reaching changes. Papal business greatly increased both in 

140 Die Briefe des Petrus Damiani hi. 64-83, no. 97, at p. 80: ‘Nunc preterea Romana aecclesia, quae 
sedes est apostolorum, antiquam debet imitari curiam Romanorum. Sicut enim tunc terrenus 
ille senatus ad hoc communicabant omne consilium, in hoc dirigebant et suptiliter exercebant 
communis industriae studium, ut cunctarum gentium multitudo Romano subderetur imperio, ita 
nunc apostolicae sedis editui, qui spiritales sunt universalis aecclesiae senatores, huic soli studio 
debent sollerter insistere, ut humanum genus veri imperatoris Christi valeant legibus subiugare.’ 

141 Ibid. , 11. 55-6, 204-5, 516-17, nos . 48, 60, 68. 142 As note 2. 

143 Vogel (1963), pp. 73, 76-82. For papal absolutions, see Councils and Synods 1/1, no. 43. 

144 Barlow (1979), pp. 298-300. 145 Papsturkunden 896—1046. 

146 For a fuller summary of developments in Rome, see Cowdrey (1983), pp. 48-56. 

147 Santifaller (1940), pp. 140-2 and (1953), pp. 40-4, 51-2. 

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Rome and during his many itineraries in Italy, France and Germany. Cardi- 
nals of the three principal orders - bishops, priests and deacons - began to be 
imported to Rome from distant reforming circles; for example, Leo recruited 
Humbert of Moyenmoutier to be cardinal bishop of Silva Candida. 148 There 
were also appointed so-called ‘external’ cardinals, like the successive abbots 
of Monte Cassino Frederick of Lorraine and Desiderius, who combined their 
Roman cardinalates with high office elsewhere. 149 Such men often served as 
papal legates whom the popes ever more frequently dispatched upon important 
business to distant parts. The papacy was becoming better equipped to govern 
the church at large. 

Throughout the eleventh century, ambiguity persisted about the designa- 
tion and functions of the Roman cardinals; only in the next century can one 
confidently speak of a ‘college’ of cardinals. 150 Thus, the papal Election Decree 
of 1059 was a milestone, but far from the end of the journey, as the papacy 
advanced towards liberty, autonomy and a settled procedure about how a pope 
should be chosen. 151 It bears the mark of a compromise, not only in its drafting, 
but also in its character as a hurried reaction to a crisis and in the freedom with 
which it was interpreted or ignored in subsequent eleventh-century elections. 
It was promulgated at Nicholas II’s Roman council, three years after the acces- 
sion in Germany of the boy-king Henry IV. It reacted to a local Roman 
situation -the upsurge at Rome of a faction of ‘simoniacal heretics and 
moneychangers’ who, after Pope Stephen IX’s death in 1058, put forward their 
own candidate, Benedict X. To avoid a repetition, ‘religious men’ were to take 
the lead in papal elections. 157 When the pope ‘of this Roman and universal 
church’ died, the cardinal bishops would lead, and the cardinal clerks and other 
clergy and laity straightway follow, in making an election. The prominence of 
the cardinal bishops was said to be requisite because of the universal authority of 
the apostolic see, which could have no metropolitan; in effect, they supplied the 
lack of one. 153 If Roman factions were rebuffed, the place of the German king 
was recognised but reduced; in a much-debated clause that is added without 
clear syntax, the young Henry’s due honour and reverence were safeguarded, 
with those of his successors who might severally receive such a right from the 

148 For the history and biography of the cardinals, see Hiils (1977). 

149 Ganzer (1963). 

150 For further discussion, see Cowdrey (1983), pp. 48-56. 

151 Jasper (1986); the Decree is edited, together with the later imperial version, at pp. 98-119. 

152 ‘Ut, nimirum ne venalitatis morbus qualibet occasione subripiat, religiosi viri praeduces sint in 
promovendi pontificis electione, reliqui autem sequaces’: lines 57-63. Religiosi here means ‘free 
from the sectarianism and venality of simony’, rather than ‘clerical’ as opposed to ‘lay’. 

153 ‘Quia vero sedes apostolica cunctis in orbe terrarum praefertur ycclesiis atque ideo super se 
metropolitanum habere non potest, cardinales episcopi proculdubio metropolitan! vice funguntur, 
qui videlicet electum antistitem ad apostolici culminis apicem provehunt’: lines 73-80. 

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The structure of the church, 1024—1073 


apostolic see. The Decree was feeling its way towards an electoral arrangement 
whereby the pope might be elected inside an acknowledged structure of author- 
ity within the apostolic see; thus, the apostolic see might exercise an assured 
supremacy over the universal church, unhindered by the Roman aristocracy 
and, if possible, assisted by a serviceable king and emperor. 

Two further documents illustrate, respectively at a distance from Rome 
and at Rome itself, the unresolved questions of the period 1024-73 about the 
structure of higher authority in the church and how it was hoped that searching 
the precedents of history and canon law might yield an answer. The unhappily 
entitled fragment De ordinando pontifice was written early in 1048 to answer 
the question, "What then must we do?’ in face of the papal crisis of the previous 
four years. 154 Some months earlier, an archbishop or leading bishop, evidently 
from a region subject to Capetian authority, wrote on behalf of a number of 
brother bishops to someone learned in canon law, perhaps a bishop, elsewhere 
in France. The bishops had drawn up a plan ( inceptum ) against three figures 
whose conduct outraged them - the simoniacal popes Benedict IX and Gregory 
VI, and the emperor Henry III, who in their eyes was morally tainted by an 
incestuous marriage to Agnes of Poitou. Yet Henry had presumed to judge the 
two popes and to appoint Clement II in their place and during their lifetime. 
Benedict’s temporary return to office in Rome during November 1047 added 
urgency to their plan. In the De ordinando pontifice there is a little about the 
election of a pope and more about judgement upon him; what matters most is 
its disclosure of serious discussion about how to justify in law and to get right 
in practice a plan to rectify scandals at the highest levels of the church. 155 To 
explore the issues involved, the author drew heavily upon Pseudo-Isidore. 

His complex and sometimes idiosyncratic thought cannot be fully analysed 
here, but four main lines of argument, which are not fully harmonised, may be 
indicated. First, he insisted upon the solidarity of the episcopal order. His test 
of a pope was whether the will of the church truly rested upon him; therefore 
bishops universally should signify their acceptance of him by their presence 
at, or at least their explicit consent to, his ordination. 156 But, secondly, the 
author had a strong sense of hierarchy: the greater should not be reproved 
by the lesser, and the pope’s authority was set over every church. 157 Thirdly, 
claims based upon hierarchical superiority were not absolute: those who set 

154 Anton (1982) offers the best text (pp. 75-83) and discussion. The title De ordinando pontifice was 
introduced by E. Diimmler in his edition in MGH Libelli 1, pp. 8-14. The terminus a quo for the 
date is set by the circulation of news of the death of Pope Gregory VI, referred to in line 178, which 
occurred on 19 Dec. 1047: see the calendar printed in Zaccaria (1755), pp. 181-6. 

155 cum res, unde quaeritur, generalem statum in perturbatione aecclesiae cupiat reformari’: lines 

156 Lines 60—1, 123—4, 1 4 2— 5- 157 Lines 11, 66—7. 

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a bad example must be punished; proceedings against any unworthy bishop 
could be justified if by his conduct he had forfeited his standing as a bishop. 
Accordingly, the author arraigned Popes Benedict IX and Gregory VI and made 
it clear that a wicked pope would forfeit his see; he also argued that, although 
a pope was elected by other men, he could not be ejected by them. 158 This 
was because, fourthly, a righteous emperor might, like Constantine, sit in a 
church council, but he might never judge a priest; in the church there was a 
strict hierarchy of answerability, which ascended exclusively within the clerical 
order. 159 In such a way an acute French commentator, in dialogue with a circle 
of bishops, sought to argue from concrete events towards a clearer picture of 
how the ecclesiastical structure should be constituted and should operate. The 
very idiosyncrasy of his argument shows how few guidelines there were, and 
how earnest could be the search for them. 

The second document, of December 1059, shows that a similar quest for 
clarification was under way at Rome itself. Peter Damian wrote to Archdeacon 
Hildebrand about his recent visit to Milan where he was confronted with 
the question of the subordination of its church to Rome and with the abuses 
of simony and clerical marriage. 160 Peter’s mission put him in mind of the 
prerogative of the Roman church ( privilegium Romanae aecclesiae) to uphold 
righteousness and to settle the constitution of the church. 161 He recalled how 
often Hildebrand had urged him to search the decrees and acts of the Roman 
pontiffs and to excerpt in a small book whatever demonstrated the authority of 
the apostolic see. l6z His practical experience at Milan had brought him up with 
a salutary jolt: like the author of the De ordinando pontifice, he realised that 
events had outrun men’s grasp of how papal authority, weighty and traditional 
though it was, should be defined in principle and exercised in practice. The 
surprising thing is that it took so long for anything substantial to be done. So 

158 Lines 18-19, 2.5—37, 116-19, 226-30. 

159 A typical passage runs: ‘Cui erat confessionem reddere, cuius erat exigere? Quo loco, quo ordine? 
In aecclesia populus sacerdoti sacerdos episcopo potest confiteri, episcopus summo et universali 
pontiffici, ille autem soli Deo, qui eum suo iuditio reservavit . . . Qui vero caput est, a cauda 
referiendum non est; imperatores autem episcopis subditos esse’: from lines 253-81, cf. 179-80. 

160 Die Briefe des Petnis Damiani 11. 228—47, no. 65. 

161 ‘Privilegium Romanae aecclesiae quantas habeat vires ad servandam canonicae aequitatis et iustitiae 
regulam, quantumque vigorem ad disponendam aecclesiastici status contineat disciplinam, solus 
ille dilucide comprehendit, qui aecclesiasticis consuevit insudare negotiis’: ibid . , p. 228. 

161 ‘frequenter a me karitate, quae superat omnia, postulasti, ut Romanorum pontificum decreta vel 
gesta percurrens quicquid apostolicae sedis auctoritati spetialiter competere videretur, hinc inde 
curiosus exceperem, atque in parvi voluminis unionem nova compilationis arte conflarem. Hanc 
itaque tuae petitionis instantiam cum ego neglegens floctipenderem, magisque superstitioni quam 
necessitati obnoxiam iudicarem, divinitus, ut reor, actum est, ut Mediolanensem urbem beatissimi 
Nicholai papae legatione functus adirem’: ibid . , pp. 229-30. 

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The structure of the church, 1024—1073 


far as is known, Peter still did nothing to answer Hildebrand’s request; that 
was left to canon lawyers, like Bishop Anselm II of Lucca and Bishop Ivo of 
Chartres (it is noteworthy that both were experienced bishops), who in the last 
decades of the eleventh century prepared the way for Gratian’s Decretum of c. 
1140 and for the ius novum that would follow. 163 Even the pontificate of Gregory 
VII saw only limited advance in institutional terms towards establishing the 
prerogatives of the apostolic see that he strongly proclaimed and embodied in 
his person. 164 

Of the institutional advances that took place at Rome before 1073, the one 
which did most in practice to advance papal prerogatives was undoubtedly 
the enhanced frequency and authority of papal councils. 165 Popes had for long 
held assemblies at Rome which were attended mainly by bishops of central 
Italian sees. The Tusculan popes, like their predecessors, had also taken part 
in imperial councils at which emperor and pope jointly presided, such as the 
Roman council of 1027 under Conrad II and John XIX. 166 Perhaps, when he 
left Germany in 1046, Henry III hoped to hold such a council with Gregory 
VI; 167 he certainly held councils with German reforming popes after he had 
reordered the papacy. 168 But Leo IX broke the mould of both of these kinds of 
council in the gathering over which he presided at Rheims in October 1049. 169 
It was held outside the limits of the empire of Henry III; it was attended by 
many bishops from many parts of Latin Christendom; and, most important, it 
saw the pope deliberately exercising his jurisdiction as ‘sole primate and pope 
of the universal church’. 170 If, as is possible, the bishops of the De ordinando 
pontifice were present, they must have been well pleased. The achievement of 
the council was impressive: not only were many reforming canons passed, but 
numerous bishops and abbots were deposed, excommunicated or otherwise 
disciplined. The archbishop of Rheims was ordered to present himself at Leo’s 
Roman council of the following April to purge himself of simony. 

The council of Rheims had itself been in the line of Leo’s Roman council of 
the following spring. Henceforth, Leo’s model for papal councils was copied by 
the reform popes who held such gatherings as regularly as they could, usually 
in the Lateran basilica which was associated with the name of Constantine; 

163 Robinson (1988). 164 Cowdrey (1991). 

165 Robinson (1990), pp. 121-4. 

166 MGH Constitutiones, 1, pp. 82-4, no. 38. 167 Schmid (1975). 

168 With Clement II at Rome (1047), 1 - e0 IX at Mainz (1049) and Victor II at Florence (1055): MGH 
Constitutiones 1, pp. 95, 97-100, nos. 49, 51, MGH DDHIII, no. 341, Atinales Altahenses maiores, a. 

169 Anselmus, Historia dedicationis. 

170 ‘declaratum est quod solus Romanae sedis pontifex universalis ecclesiae primas esset et apostolicus’: 
ibid., col. 1432D. 

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it was a reminder that papal authority subsumed that of the emperors. At 
such a council in 1059 Nicholas II promoted the Election Decree, and in 
this and the following year he added a weight of reforming legislation. 171 It was 
communicated to leading churchmen elsewhere in a synodal letter which began 
and ended with a ringing assertion of papal authority over all the churches; 172 
probably in 1063 it was reissued by Alexander II whose annual synods, at first 
during Eastertide but latterly in Lent, handed on the tradition that Leo IX and 
Nicholas II had established to Gregory VII. Gregory raised these occasions 
to fresh heights, not only for their judicial and legislative activity in which 
their authority was used to reinforce his own, but also as demonstrations of 
papal honour and majesty which were comparable to the crown-wearings of 
contemporary kings. 

Despite this papal activity, in 1073 the structure of the church remained 
remarkably unformed. There were hierarchical models in everyday liturgical 
and devotional representations of the order of redemption in heaven and earth, 
and others derived from the study of canon law reinforced them in the minds 
of the powerful and learned. But for all the awesome resources stored up in the 
papacy as the apostolic see under the patronage of the princes of the apostles, 
Saints Peter and Paul, the prerogative of the Roman see and the nature of its 
exercise remained uncertain and ill defined. Nevertheless, as seen in the zeal of 
Archdeacon Hildebrand, the future Pope Gregory VII, an indomitable purpose 
to assert and secure the prerogative of the apostolic see was already at work. In 
the twelfth century its exercise would converge with the developments which, 
throughout the eleventh century, worked from below, with a high degree of 
similarity in most parts of Latin Christendom, to form territorial parishes, to 
consolidate an internal hierarchy within dioceses involving archdeacons and 
archpriests who had areas accredited to them in which they were the bishops’ 
‘eyes’, and to foster collective action through councils and synods at all levels 
to order and reform the church. With the territorialisation of offices came the 
development of church courts which were themselves a hierarchy with what 
was now called the papal curia as its apex, and of a mature canon law as a papal 
law which was binding upon the church in all places and at all levels. Then 
the pope could emerge as universal ordinary, and what has been well described 

171 MGH Constitutiones i. pp. 546-51, nos. 384-6; Schieffer (1981), pp. 209-25. 

172 ‘Vigilantia universalis regiminis assiduam sollicitudinem omnibus debentes saluti quoque vestre 
spetialiter providentes, que in Romana sinodo nuper cflebrata quoram CIII bus episcopis nobis 
licet immeritis presidentibus sunt chanonice constituta, vobis notificare curamus, quia ad salutem 
vestram executores eorum vos esse obtamus et apostolica auctoritate iubendo mandamus . . . Vos 
ergo hec at alia sanctorum patrum statuta fideliter et Christiana reverentia observate, si vultis de 
sancte Romane ecclesie et apostolice sedis pace et comunione atque benedictione gaudere’: Schieffer 
(1981), pp. 212-14, 22 4- 

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The structure of the church, 1024—1073 267 

as the ‘papal monarchy’ could find the ways and means to be a source of right 
order. 173 In the twelfth century, but only then, there emerged the structured 
and centralised church that reached its apogee in Pope Innocent Ill’s Fourth 
Lateran Council of 1215. The corollary was the supersession of the unitary 
society of 1024 in which the king was mediator cleri et plebis by a dualist society, 
increasingly reached after 1073 in theory and in practice, in which sacerdotium 
and regnum were always distinct and often in conflict. The period 1024-73 was 
one of mental and institutional preparation for this change. 

173 Morris (1989), esp. the general observations on pp. 1-6. 

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I. S. Robinson 

‘we hope through [God’s] serenity to renew the lost light of truth and justice; 
to restore the health of the whole church, weakened to the point of ruin; to 
reform this iron age to one of gold with the hammer of just government.’ So 
Abbot William ofHirsau, the trusted adherent of Pope Gregory VII, described 
that pope’s reform programme in a letter to Hermann of Salm, who had been 
elected to the German kingship by the enemies of King Henry IV in 1081. 
‘Above all you can begin to make a sacrifice of obedience most pleasing to the 
Lord by this means: if you labour to eradicate entirely the simoniac heresy, 
damned from eternity to all eternity; if you persevere in rooting out the deadly 
unchastity of clerks; and if you yourself avoid the transgression of conferring 
investitures of ecclesiastical offices.’ The duty of purifying the church of these 
evils belonged to the king; but it could be fulfilled only by a king who showed 
total obedience to the pope. As for Abbot William himself, his role in this work 
of reform was to pray every morning for the king’s success and to continue 
to ‘exhort and admonish’ him until the reform had been accomplished. 1 This 
letter of William of Hirsau (whom Gregory VII regarded as a crucial figure 
in his reforming strategy in Germany) provides a useful introduction to the 
language of reform and renewal in the later eleventh century. 

William’s terms reparare, redintegrare, reformare belong to an extensive vo- 
cabulary of synonyms for the reforming process, including (to cite only the 
most frequent) renovare, innovare, restaurare, instaurare, corrigere, emendare. 

1 William of Hirsau to the anti-king Hermann of Salm (1082—5): Hildesheimer Briefe 18 in Brief- 
sammlungen der Zeit Heinrichs IV, pp. 41-2: cuius serenitate amissum veritatis et iustitif lumen 
speramus reparari, labefactatam usque in finem totius ecclesiastici status salutem redintegrari, fer- 
reum istud s^culum iusti quasi malleo regiminis in aureum reformari . . . Sed maxime potestis ac- 
ceptissimum Domino obfdienti? sacrificium per hoc exordiri, si damnatam ab £terno et usque in 
fternum hfresin simoniacam laboratis funditus extirpari, si exitiabilem clericorum incontinentiam 
persequendo radicitus facietis evelli, si et vos ipse in dandis ecclesiasticarum potestatum investituris 
devitatis pr^varicari.’ On William of Hirsau and Gregory VII see Cowdrey (1970), pp. 199-203, 


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Reform and the church, 1073— 1122 


William’s idea of the return to the golden age recalls the words in which Peter 
Damian had described the reform of the papacy forty years before: the golden 
age of the apostles is now restored’; ‘the golden age of David is renewed’. 2 
To supporters of the reform papacy the golden age of the church was that 
ancient period in which the faithful had built and endowed churches and 
showered their wealth on the clergy, a period which had been succeeded by 
the current ‘iron age’ in which the laity destroyed God’s houses and stole the 
property of His servants. 3 Hence the language of reform was often used in the 
double sense of restoring to a church its lost prestige and independence and 
of making material reparation to a church for the damage caused by neglect 
and oppression. When, for example, Pope Urban II undertook the reform of 
the church of Tarragona in 1089, as part of the reconstruction of the Spanish 
church, the process had two distinct elements. The pope restored Tarragona to 
her ancient dignity {ad antiquum dignitatem restituere) by re-establishing her 
as the metropolitan church of Catalonia (an office exercised since the ninth 
century by the archbishop of Narbonne). Simultaneously Urban called on the 
secular princes of the province of Tarragona to assist in the rebuilding of the 
forsaken city ( statum reparare), an enterprise as meritorious as the pilgrimage 
to Jerusalem. 4 The historian Eadmer used the term renovare to describe both 
the moral and the material reforms accomplished by Archbishop Lanfranc of 
Canterbury. The archbishop strove ‘to renew religion and morality among all 
orders of men throughout the kingdom; nor was he disappointed of his desire. 
For through his persuasion and teaching religion was increased throughout 
that country and everywhere new monastic buildings were constructed, as ap- 
pears today.’ 5 Similarly the historian Leo of Ostia described Abbot Desiderius 
of Monte Cassino as the restaurator ac renovator of his abbey because 500 years 
after St Benedict had founded Monte Cassino, Desiderius ‘renewed, adorned 
and enlarged if. Almighty God held him so very dear that He deigned to bring 
to fruition in our time through him what he had once promised to His faithful 
servant Benedict, that this place, which He had then resolved to surrender to the 

2 Die Briefe des Petrus Damiani 13: ‘Reparetur nunc aureum apostolorum saeculum’; 20: ‘aureum David 
saeculum renovatur’, pp. 144, 201. See Miccoli (1966a), pp. 257-8. 

3 E.g. Vita Adalberonis episcopi Wirziburgensis c. 6, MGH SS xii , p. 131 (a biography of an adherent of 
Gregory VII composed c. 1200 but drawing on earlier material): the author used the description of 
the decline of the golden age in Ovid, Metamorphoses 1. See also Autenrieth (1956), p. 87 (the clerk 
Wolferad of Constance on ‘this iron age’). 

4 Urban II, JL 5401, PL 151, cols. 303B, 303c. See Becker (1964), pp. 244, 252; Servatius (1979), pp. 

5 Eadmer, Historia novorum in Anglia 1, p. 12: ‘religionem morum bonorum in cunctis ordinibus 
hominum per totum regnum renovare. Nec privatus est desiderio suo. Multum enim illius instantia 
atque doctrina per totam terram illam religio aucta est et ubique nova monasteriorum aedificia, sicut 
hodie apparet, constructa.’ 

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heathen to be destroyed and plundered, would come to far greater prosperity, 
fame and glory than it then enjoyed.’ Desiderius’ grandiose building projects 
seemed to Leo of Ostia to have brought about a renovatio of the golden age of 
St Benedict . 6 Given this emphasis on the material restoration of the churches 
as part of the reform process, it is no surprise to find that process described in 
terms of building. Gregory VII, for example, announced that his aim was ‘to 
rebuild God s righteousness with new counsels’; but he warned his overzealous 
legate, Bishop Hugh of Die, that ‘lofty buildings are built little by little ’. 7 The 
biographer of Abbot William of Hirsau described the abbot’s work of dissem- 
inating the Hirsau model of monastic reform as ‘repairing the monastic life, 
which had formerly fallen into ruins’. ‘A most enthusiastic founder of new 
monasteries and restorer of old ones’, William chose only saintly candidates to 
rule the houses of the Hirsau reform, like a ‘wise architect’ choosing suitable 
stones for a ‘spiritual edifice ’. 8 

In William of Hirsau’s letter to King Hermann, as we have seen, the image 
of repairing a flawed world is accompanied by that of healing a sick church. 
The image of the physician was a traditional part of ecclesiastical rhetoric; but 
the reformers of the later eleventh century gave this image a new emphasis 
when they represented the offences of simony and clerical marriage as diseases 
afflicting the body of the church. Gregory VU’s mentor, Cardinal Humbert 
of Silva Candida, described unrepentant simoniacs as ‘resisting the physician 
and denying their infirmity ’. 9 Gregory VII warned the faithful against the 
‘heresies which are seen to spread like the plague in holy church’. He wrote of 
Simon Magus infecting the church of Milan with the poison of his venality 
and of the election of an abbot of St Laumer, Blois, as ‘polluted by simoniacal 
filth’; he described clerical marriage as ‘the inveterate disease of fornication 
of the clergy’ and ‘the foul pollution of contaminating lust ’. 10 The chronicler 

6 Chronica monasterii Casinensis in, prologus, MGH SS xxxiv, p. 362: ‘Quem videlicet omnipotens 
Deus adeo carissimum habuit, ut illud, quod suo fideli famulo Benedicto olim promiserat, locum 
utique istum, quem tunc gentibus destruendum diripiendumque tradere censuerat, in maiorem 
longe, quam tunc erat, statum, famam et gloriam fore venturum, per ipsum nostro hoc tempore 
dignatus sit, ut cernitur, ad effectum perducere.’ ill. 33, p. 408: ‘Hoc Desiderius post centum lustra 
vetustum/Parvumque evertit, renovavit, compsit et auxit (quoting the verses of Archbishop Alfano 
I of Salerno). 

7 Gregory VII, Registrant 11.45, P- "84: ‘iustitiam Dei vel novis reed if care consiliis’; Registrum 11.43, P- 
180: ‘alta tjdificia paulatim fdificantur’. 

8 Haimo, prior of Hirsau, Vita Willihelmi abbatis Hirsaugiensis, c. 22, MGH SS xi 1 , p. 218: ‘Erat enim 
studiosissimus cenobiorum novorum fundator ac veterum instaurator’; p. 219: ‘eos ille sapiens archi- 
tectus studuit quasi quadratos lapides ubi apparerent in aedificio spiritali promovere’. Concluding 
verses of the Vita, p. 225: ‘Collapsam dudum vitam reparans monachorum.’ 

9 Humbert, Adversus simoniacos m.i, MGH Libelli 1, p. 198: ‘medico repugnantum et infirmitatem 
suam negantum’. 

10 Registrum 1.28, p. 45: ‘heresibus, qu? in sancta ecclesia pestifere videntur pululare’; 1.27, p. 44: 
‘Symonem magum, qui ecclesiam beati Ambrosii venalitatis su$ miserabiliter veneno i n fecit ; 1.32, 

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Reform and the church, 1073— 1122 


Hugh of Flavigny (writing in the entourage of Archbishop Hugh of Lyons, 
the permanent papal legate in France) recorded that ‘the evil plague of simony 
spread very widely throughout Gaul: the reforming decrees of Gregory VII, 
however, were a ‘defensive medicine’ against it. 11 The distinguished canonist 
Bishop Ivo of Chartres in a letter to Archbishop Hugh of Lyons commented 
on the duty of papal legates: ‘the servants of the Roman church, like proven 
physicians, should strive to heal the more serious diseases’. 12 Closely linked 
with the image of healing is that of resuscitating a moribund institution, which 
is found especially in texts concerning monastic reform. William of Hirsau’s 
biographer, for example, wrote that ‘monastic religion, which had almost grown 
cold among those who laid claim to the monastic habit in the provinces of 
Germany, began to grow warm again and to recover through the zeal of this 
blessed father’. 1 ’ In his privilege of 1092 for the regular canons of Rottenbuch, 
Urban II rejoiced that the brethren had ‘renewed the life approved by the holy 
Fathers and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit revived the ordinances of 
the apostolic discipline, which originated in the earliest times of holy Church 
but, as the church grew, were almost destroyed’. 14 Giles, monk of Cluny (later 
cardinal bishop ofTusculum), biographer of the great Abbot Hugh, described 
how the latter ‘carefully resuscitated by means of regular ordinances many 
[congregations] which had been drowned in the Scyllean whirlpool’. 15 Similarly 
William of St Thierry, the biographer of Bernard of Clairvaux, wrote that the 
saint ‘dedicated the first-fruits of his youth to resuscitating the fervour of 
ancient religion in the monastic order’. 16 

What all these images have in common is the idea of the spiritual and 
material restoration of the church to an ideal earlier condition from which 

p. 53: ‘illius promotio symoniaca sorde invenitur fgdata’ : 11.30, p. 163: ‘inveteratum morbum fornica- 
tionis clericorum’; JL 4931, Epistolae vagantesvi, p. 14: ‘fedam libidinosae contagionis pollutionem’. 

11 Hugh of Flavigny, Chronicon II, MGH SS vm, p. 412: ‘in Gallia, ubi plurimum symoniae serpebat 
pestis iniqua; p. 429: ‘medicinalis defensio’. 

12 Ivo of Charles, Epistola ad Hugonem, MGH Libelli 11, p. 646: ‘ut Romanae aecclesiae ministri 
tamquam probati medici maioribus morbis sanandis intenderent’. On Ivo’s predilection for medical 
terminology see Sprandel (1962), pp. 20-4. 

13 Haimo, Vita Willihelmi, c. 21, p. 218: ‘Religio quoque monastica, quae paene in provinciis Teutonicis 
refrixerat in eis qui habitum religionis praetendebant, huius bead patris studio cepit recalescere 
et recuperari.’ 

14 Urban II, JL 5459, PL 151, col. 338B; also Mo'fs (1953), p. 76: ‘gratias agimus, quia vos estis qui 
sanctorum patrum vitam probabilem renovatis et apostolicae instituta disciplinae, in primordiis 
ecclesiae sanctae exorta, sed crescente ecclesia iam pene deleta, instinctu sancti Spiritus suscitatis’. 
On the language of this much discussed letter see, for example, Dereine (1951), pp. 549-50, 557-8; 
Miccoli (1966a), pp. 275-6. 

15 Gilo, Vita sancti Hugonis abbatis 11.5 ed. Cowdrey (1978), p. 95: ‘multas scillea voragine submersas 
regularibus institutis provide suscitavit’. 

16 William of St Thierry, Vita prima sancti Bernardi , c. 8 (42), PL 185, col. 251c: ‘circa resuscitandum in 
monastico ordine antiquae religionis fervorem, primitias iuventutis suae dedicavit’. See Constable 
(1982), p. 56. 

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it had since declined. The reformers wished to ‘tear out long-established and 
deeply rooted custom and reform a world which was now growing old accord- 
ing to the principles of the church’s infancy’. 17 The terms reformare, renovare, 
reparare, restaurare and their many synonyms described a backward-looking 
process, in which the church was to be rejuvenated through the imitation of 
the attitudes and institutions of a more glorious past. 18 This idea of the reju- 
venating influence of antiquity is constantly encountered in the literature of 
the later eleventh and early twelfth centuries and is by no means restricted to 
ecclesiastical institutions. 19 It was assumed that no enterprise could be a success 
unless it followed an antique model. ‘The whole world will be reformed by 
ancient laws’, wrote an Italian poet to his countrymen, prophesying the future 
greatness of the young Henry IV. 20 A panegyrist informed the successful war- 
lord William I of England: ‘another Julius [Caesar], you compel an unbridled 
nation to love the yoke by renewing his triumph’. 21 A Pisan poet considered 
that to record the deeds of his fellow-citizens on the Mahdia expedition of 
1087 was to ‘renew the memory of the ancient Romans’. Their attack on the 
north African Muslims earned for the Pisans the same praise ‘that Rome once 
received by conquering Carthage’. 22 The participants in the First Crusade re- 
lived the biblical rather than the Roman past. Pope Paschal II, congratulating 
the crusaders in 1100, declared that ‘the Lord has renewed the ancient miracles’ 
of the fall of Jericho (Joshua 6:2-20), so that ‘we see that the eastern church 
after a long period of captivity has largely returned to the ancient glory of her 
liberty’. 23 

The Christian terminology of reform and renewal is already found in the 
letters of St Paul, where it denoted the transformation of an individual per- 
sonality in the likeness of God: ‘be transformed by the renewal of your mind’ 

17 Lampert of Hersfeld, Annales, 1074, MGH SRG (1894), p. 199: ‘ut tanto tempore inolitam consue- 
tudinem revelleret atque ad rudimenta nascentis aecclesiae senescentem iam mundum reformaret’. 
The consuetudo in question was that of clerical marriage. 

18 On the ‘Gregorian reform’ as a restoration see especially the contribution of C. Dereine to the 
discussion following the conference paper of Maccarrone (1962), p. 407. See also Constable (1964), 
pp. 330-43- 

19 The renovatio idea was first studied in this context by Schramm (1962), pp. 188-305. See also Ladner 
(1982), pp. 1-33. 

20 Exhortatio ad proceres regni, ed. Dummler, in Diimmler (1876), p. 177: ‘Legibus antiquis totus 
reparabitur orbis’. On this and similar texts see Schramm (1962), pp. 257-74. 

21 Carmen de Hastingae proelio of Guy, Bishop of Amiens, p. 4: ‘Iulius alter enim, cuius renovando 
triumphum/Effrenem gen tern cogis amare iugum.’ On the problem of authorship see Davis (1978). 

22 Carmen in victoriam Pisanorum 1, ed. Cowdrey, in Cowdrey (1977), p. 24: ‘antiquorum Romanorum 
renovo memoriam; nam extendit modo Pisa laudem admirabilem, quam olim recepit Roma vincendo 

23 Paschal II, JL 5835, PL 163, col. 42CD: ‘Renovavit enim Dominus antiqua miracula’; ‘videmus ori- 
entalem ecclesiam, post longa captivitatis tempora, magna ex parte ad antiquam libertatis gloriam 

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Reform and the church, 1073— 1122 

2 73 

(Romans 12:2); ‘the inward man is renewed day by day (11 Corinthians 4:16). 
In patristic writings the language of reform and renewal continued to be used 
mainly in the sense of personal spiritual development. The Pauline idea of 
reform also influenced the early medieval monastic ‘conversion to religion’ 24 
and played a significant part in the monastic reform movements of the eleventh 
and early twelfth centuries. Hence the idea of personal reform survived in the 
writings of the monastic theologians of the central middle ages. Anselm of 
Bee, for example, in the prayer which opens the Proslogion, confessed that the 
image of God dwelling within him ‘cannot do that for which it was made 
unless You renew and reform it’. 25 Bernard of Clairvaux used the language of 
reform and renewal in a similar sense, writing that the image of God is ‘re- 
stored’ and ‘reformed’ in us by Christ through a process of ‘interior renewal’ 
(. interior renovatio) d 6 The literature of the monastic reform movement often 
adhered in this way to traditional Pauline terminology, while that of the papal 
reform movement emphasised a non-traditional idea of reform and renewal. 
The reformers of the later eleventh century applied the language of reform 
to particular churches (a usage for which there were occasional precedents in 
the writings of Pope Gregory I and of Carolingian and later authors) and - 
unprecedentedly - to the reform of the church as a whole. Gregory VII himself 
never used the term reformatio. In the approximately 350 letters surviving from 
his pontificate the verb reformare occurs four times, referring to the reform of 
individual churches: the spiritual and material restoration of the archbishoprics 
of Dol (in Brittany) and Ravenna to their former glory; the enforcement of the 
proper observance of the Benedictine Rule in the southern French monasteries 
of Montmajour and Sainte-Marie-de-Grasse. 27 Elsewhere in Gregory’s letters 
the terms renovare (innovare), restaurare and their synonyms are used to des- 
cribe the renewal of the whole church. ‘Whatever has been long neglected in 
the church through sin and whatever has been and continues to be corrupted 
through evil custom, we desire to renew and restore for the honour of God 
and the salvation of all Christendom.’ ‘We desire one thing: namely that holy 
church, who throughout the world has been trodden underfoot, thrown into 
disorder and divided into conflicting parties, may return to her former beauty 
and stability.’ 2,8 

24 Ladner (1959) and (1966), pp. 252-75. 

25 Anselm, Proslogion 1, ed. Schmitt (1946), p. 100: ‘ut non possit facere ad quod facta est, nisi tu 
renoves et reformes earn’. 

26 E. g. Bernard, Tractatus de gratia et libero arbitrio, vm, 27; x, 32; xiv, 49, Sancti Bernardi opera , 111 
pp. 185, 188-9, 201. 

27 Gregory VII, Registrum iv.4, 5, vni.12, ix.6, pp. 300-3, 531-2, 581-3. See Ladner (1973), pp. 17-19; 
Tellenbach (1985), p. 99. 

28 Registrum v.5, p. 353: quod in ecclesia diu peccatis facientibus neglectum et nefanda consuetudine 
corruptum fuit et est, nos ad honorem Dei et salutem totius christianitatis innovare et restaurare 

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274 I. s - ROBINSON 

Linked with this image of renewal in Gregory’s letters is that of uprooting and 
replanting. He wrote, for example, that he was sending his legate to Narbonne, 
Gascony and Spain ‘so that, once the vices which are in need of eradication 
there have been torn up by the roots, he may, under God’s guidance, attend 
with careful vigilance to cultivating the plantations of virtues’. 29 In other letters 
the source of this image is made explicit: ‘See, I have this day set thee over the 
nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down and to destroy 
and to throw down, to build and to plant.’ This text, Jeremiah 1:10, first used 
as a delineation of papal authority in the pontificate of Leo IX, became in the 
letters of Gregory VII a statement of the pope’s duty to reform the church. 30 
In the course of Gregory’s pontificate the pope’s role as the principal reformer 
of the church began to be recorded in the arengas of papal letters and privileges. 
‘The office of apostolic authority admonishes us to watch over all the churches 
in general and to be responsible for their condition and for the reform of them 
all.’ 31 The papal privileges of Urban II and Paschal II regularly contain ‘primacy 
arengas’ - introductory protocols reminding the recipient of the privilege of the 
unique authority of the papacy - which were probably influenced by the first 
chancellor of the reorganised papal chancery, John of Gaeta, cardinal deacon 
of S. Maria in Cosmedin (1089-1118). John’s ‘primacy arengas’ were imitated in 
the privileges which he himself issued during his short pontificate as Gelasius II 
and in the privileges of his successor, Calixtus II. The theme of John’s ‘primacy 
arengas’ was the right and the obligation of the pope to reform the church. 
‘We who, although unworthy, sit in Peter’s seat, must correct what is crooked, 
confirm what is straight and throughout the whole church set in order what 
is in need of setting in order.’ 32 It was the pope’s responsibility not only to 
initiate his own reforms but also to investigate and approve those attempted 
by other reformers. No reform initiative was lawful unless it had received papal 
approval, as is made clear in the letter of Calixtus II to Abbot Stephen of 

cupimus’; ix.21, p. 602: unum desideramus, scilicet ut sancta fcclesia per totum orbem conculcata 
et confusa et per diversas partes discissa ad pristinum decorem et soliditatem redeat’. 

29 Gregory VII, JL 5042, Epistolae vagantes 21, p. 5 6: ut, quae ibi vicia eradicanda sunt a fundamento 
evulsis, plantaria virtutum Deo auctore sollerti vigilantia plan tare procured. 

30 Leo IX, JL 4276, PL 143, col. 692B; Gregory VII, Registrum 11.68, v.2, vi.12, pp. 226, 350, 415. See 
Congar (1957), pp. 679-82 (see also pp. 675-8 on the different use of these texts made by Gregory 
I, Nicholas I and John VIII). 

31 Registrum ix.6, p. 581: apostolici nos apicis cura pro cunctis generaliter fcclesiis vigilare ac pro 
omnium statu vel reparatione sollicitos esse admoneat’. 

32 Urban II, JL 5415, PL 151, col. 310A: (following the gospel texts defining Peter’s authority, Matthew 
16:19 and Luke 22:32): ‘Oportet ergo nos, qui, licet indigni, Petri residemus in loco, prava corrigere, 
recta firmare et in omni ecclesia . . . disponenda disponere.’ Cf. JL 5431, 5459, 5461, 5569, 5688 (PL 
1 51, cols. 320CD, 337B, 341BC, 421AB, 495BC); Paschal II, JL 6088, 6596, PL 163, cols. 194AB, 434D; 
Calixtus II, JL 7160, PL 163, cols. 1321D-1322A. On John of Gaeta see Santifaller (1940), pp. 436-73; 
Lohrmann (1967), pp. 355-445. On primacy arengas’ see Fichtenau (1957), pp. 101-12. 

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Reform and the church, 1073— 1122 275 

Citeaux, approving the Cistercian Charter of Charity (23 December 1119). ‘It 
is known that we were raised up, as the Lord directed, to govern the apostolic 
see so that with His help we should increase religion and strengthen by the 
authority of our office those ordinances which are righteous and promote the 
salvation of souls.’ 33 

The application of St Paul’s language of reform and renewal to the church 
rather than to the transformation of an individual personality marked a con- 
siderable intellectual breakthrough. The idea of bettering the condition of the 
whole church by human efforts would not have been easily comprehensible to 
an earlier generation whose ecclesiology accentuated the image of the church 
as the mystical body of Christ, the visible, terrestrial part of the City of God, 
of which the greater part was in heaven. Such a structure could surely only 
be changed by direct divine intervention. 34 Eleventh-century ideas of reform 
originated in a new historical outlook, which emphasised the mutability of all 
terrestrial institutions. The papacy in particular came to cite this state of flux 
in human affairs as a justification of its reforming role. ‘The kingdoms of the 
earth are transformed with the changing times and therefore it is expedient 
for the boundaries of ecclesiastical jurisdictions in most provinces to be trans- 
formed . . . [The pope] ought to support this divine mutation and to set in order 
whatever is in disarray, according to the needs of the times.’ ‘Times change and 
kingdoms are transformed by the command of the Almighty. Hence we read 
of nations which were once of great repute being diminished and laid low and 
of little nations being exalted ... In this mutation, according to the customary 
stewardship of the apostolic see, [the pope is] led to make provision for the 
honour of God and the salvation of souls.’ 35 The eleventh-century discovery 
that the church was as mutable as all terrestrial institutions originated in the 
conviction that the church was currently in decline, having been at some earlier 
period in a state of perfection. The many authors of our period who wrote of 
the need to reform the church had a clear vision of this lost state of perfection; 

33 Calixtus II, JL 6795, PL 163, col. 1147B: ‘Ad hoc in apostolicae sedis regimen, Domino disponente, 
promoti conspicimur, ut ipso praestante religionem augere et quae recta atque ad salutem animarum 
statuta sunt nostri debeamus auctoritate officii stabilire.’ See also, for example, Paschal II, JL 6532, 
6534, PL 163, cols. 413A, 414c; Gelasius II, JL 6671, PL 163, col. 512D. 

34 Congar (1968), pp. 73-127. 

35 Paschal II, JL 6298, PL 163, col. 289CD (to Gibelin, patriarch of Jerusalem): ‘Secundum mutationes 
temporum transferuntur etiam regna terrarum. Unde etiam ecclesiasticarum parochiarum fines in 
plerisque provinciis mutari expedit et transferri . . . Unde oportet nos divinae mutationi et trans- 
lation! manum apponere et secundum tempus quae sunt disponenda disponere.’ Calixtus II, JL 
6823, PL 163, cols. 1168D-1169A (to Diego Gelmirez, archbishop of Compostela): ‘Omnipotentis 
dispositione mutantur tempora et transferuntur regna. Hinc est quod magni quondam nominis 
nationes detritas et depressas, exiguas vero quandoque legimus exaltatas . . . Caeterum in mutatione 
hac nos ex consueta sedis apostolicae dispensatione . . . et honori Dei et animarum saluti duximus 

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but they did not agree on the precise historical period of the church’s golden 
age to which they wished to return. 

It is instructive to begin with the vision of a learned critic of Gregory VII 
and his successors, Sigebert, master of the school in the abbey of St Vincent 
of Metz and subsequently monk of Gembloux (c. 1030-1112). Poet, chronicler, 
hagiographer, computist, biblical exegete, bibliographer, polemicist, Sigebert 
was the most influential intellectual in Lower Lorraine during the Investiture 
Contest. Like the adherents of Gregory VII, Sigebert was an opponent of 
simony and clerical unchastity and he supported the enforcement of monastic 
discipline. How his view of reform differed from that of the reform papacy is 
spelled out in the three or perhaps four polemics in which he attacked the most 
controversial measures of Gregory VI I. His ‘apology against those who slander 
the masses of married priests’ was not a defence of clerical marriage but a 
criticism of Gregory VII’s campaign of 1074-5 to persuade the laity to boycott 
the masses of married priests. His reply ‘with powerful arguments from the 
Fathers’ (no longer extant) ‘to the letter of Pope Hildebrand to Bishop Hermann 
of Metz, slandering royal power’ was provoked by the widely disseminated 
papal letter of 1081 which contains Gregory VII’s most extreme statement on 
kingship, claiming that all secular authority had a diabolic origin. Sigebert’s 
third polemic was his reply ‘to the letter of Pope Paschal [II] commanding 
the church of LRge and that of Cambrai to be destroyed by Count Robert of 
Flanders’, composed in 1103. 36 Here he attacked the reform papacy’s practice of 
using military force to compel obedience to Rome. This method of imposing 
reform by resorting to holy war originated, Sigebert believed, with Gregory 
VII: ‘all [the popes] from Gregory I onwards were content to use only the 
spiritual sword, until the last Gregory, that is Hildebrand, who first girded 
himself- and by his example, other popes - with the sword of war against the 
emperor’. 37 A fourth polemic which may also be the work of Sigebert is the 
treatise of 1109 which argued against the validity of the decrees of Gregory VII 

36 Sigebert listed his writings at the end of his bibliographical work, Catalogus Sigeberti Gemblacen- 
sis monachi de viris illustribus, c. 172 ed. Witte (1974), pp. 103-6. The polemics are described thus 
(p. 104): ‘validis patrum argumentis respondi epistule Hildebrandi papae, quam scripsit ad Heriman- 
num Mettensem episcopum in potestatis regie calumpniam. Scripsi . . . apologiam contra eos, qui 
calumpniantur missas coniugatorum sacerdotum [MGH Libelli II, pp. 437-48] . . . respondi epistule 
Paschalis pape, qui Leodiensem ecclesiam eque ut Cameracensem a Roberto Flandrensium comite 
iubebat perditum iri [MGH Libelli 11, pp. 451-64].’ To the list of modern editions of Sigebert’s 
works supplied by Witte (1974) , p. 147, should now be added the Liber Decennalis , MGH Qiiellen 
zur Geistesgesehichte des Mittelalters xii (1986). See Robinson (1978a), pp. 175-81. 

37 Sigebert, Epistola Leodicensium adversus Paschaletn papam 10, MGH Libelli n, p. 462: ‘omnes a 
primo Gregorio contenti utebantur solo gladio spirituali usque ad ultimum Gregorium, id est ad 
Hildebrandum, qui primus se et suo exemplo alios pontifices contra imperatorem accinxit gladio 

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Reform and the church, 1073— 1122 277 

and his successors forbidding kings to invest bishops with their offices. (This 
Treatise concerning the Investiture of Bishops was commissioned by King Henry 
V of Germany and played a significant part in the negotiations with the papacy 
which were intended to settle the investiture dispute.) 38 

While Sigebert’s polemics reveal his negative attitude to Gregorian reform 
strategy, his hagiographical writings contain his personal vision of the lost 
golden age of the church. In his Life of the later tenth-century Bishop Theoderic 
I of Metz he wrote: ‘I call the times of Otto [I] happy and rightly so; for 
the commonwealth was reformed, the peace of the churches restored and 
the integrity of religion renewed by famous bishops and wise men.’ In the 
reign of Emperor Otto I the bishops of Lorraine were ‘fellow-workers for 
good, excellent soldiers in the vanguard and comrades-in-arms in the camp 
of the Lord of Sabaoth, all lieutenants in the king’s affairs, whether at war or 
at leisure’. Elsewhere Sigebert described a specific instance of the reforming 
activity of an Ottonian bishop in his diocese: Adalbero of Metz ‘laboured to 
restore monastic discipline to the model of the apostolic life’. 39 ‘The times 
of the Ottomans’, which seemed to Sigebert a golden age of ecclesiastical 
prosperity, appeared to the Roman reform party to be the period when ‘the 
madness of simoniacal transactions spread through Germany, Gaul and the 
whole of Italy’. This was the period, according to Cardinal Humbert of Silva 
Candida (writing in 1057/8), when kings and princes ‘devoted all their power, 
all their terror, all their ingenuity, all their efforts to attacking and claiming 
for themselves the ecclesiastical property which they were assigned [by God] 
to protect’. ‘The Ottonians who, more than all the kings who preceded them, 
were usurpers of the priestly office’, were punished by God with the extinction 
of their dynasty in the male line after only three generations. For the same 
reason Emperor Henry II was denied any issue. 40 Gregory VII juxtaposed this 
‘time in which the government of our church was granted to the Germans’ with 

38 Tractatus de investitura episcoporum, MGH Libelli n, pp. 498-504 and ed. Krimm-Beumann (1977), 
pp. 37-83. On Sigebert’s authorship see Beumann (1976). 

39 Sigebert, Vita Deoderici episcopi Mettensis, c. 7, PL 160, col. 700c: lure felicia dixerim Ottonis tem- 
pora, cum claris praesulibus et sapientibus viris respublica sit reformata, pax aecclesiarum restaurata, 
bonestas religionis redintegrata’; 701A: [the archbishop of Trier and the bishops of Metz, Verdun 
and Liege as the allies of Archbishop Bruno of Cologne, the king’s brother] 'hi inquam eius in 
bonum cooperatores, hi in castris domini Sabaoth huius egregii antesignani fuere commilitones, hi 
omnes succenturiati, in otio et in negotio causis regis aderant’. Vita Wicberti, MGH SS viii, p. 511: 
‘monasticam disciplinam elaborabat ... ad apostolicae vitae redigere normam. 

40 Humbert, Adversus simoniacos 111.7, MGH Libelli 1, p. 206: 'hanc reciprocatae venditionis rabiem 
grassatam per Germaniam et Gallias totamque Italiam a temporibus Ottonum’; 111.5, P- 204: ‘reges 
saeculi et principes . . . omnem suam potestatem, omnem terrorem, omne ingenium, omne studium 
ad expugnandum et sibi penitus vendicandum res ecclesiasticas, quibus tutores dati fuerant, trans- 
ferunt’”, ill. 15, p. 217: ‘Ottones, prae omnibus ante se regibus sacerdotalis officii praesumptores, vix 
attigere tertiam [generationem] . Post quos primus Heinricus [i.e. Henry II] nullam’. 

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the age of the ancient Fathers’ which he wished to restore. 41 Sigebert s golden 
age was the Gregorians’ iron age; yet Sigebert applauded much of Gregory VII’s 
reform programme. ‘If you return to the principles, what is more lovely and 
more profitable to Christianity than to make holy orders subject to the laws of 
chastity, to determine ecclesiastical promotions not by a financial arrangement 
but by personal merit, to correct the life and morals of a young king for his own 
and his subjects’ advantage, to free the office of bishop from every obligation 
of secular service?’ Sigebert entirely approved of these Gregorian ‘principles’: 
he deplored the methods by which Gregory intended to enforce them, the 
use of ‘tyrannical violence’ rather than ‘pious and ecclesiastical admonitions’. 42 
Sigebert’s main objection to the Gregorian reform was that the pope, in order 
to enforce the purity of the priesthood, ‘brought down the swords of laymen 
upon the necks of clerks’. 43 

This was indeed the central theme of all the criticisms directed against 
Gregory VII, beginning with the synods of Worms (1076) and Brixen (1080) 
and continuing in the polemical literature of the Investiture Contest: that he 
‘ruled over the apostolic see not with the care of a pastor but with the violence 
of an intruder’. 44 He was ‘the standard-bearer of schism’, who ‘overturned 
ecclesiastical order, disturbed the government of the Christian empire’ and 
‘sowed discord among those who were in harmony’. 45 The polemicist Bishop 
Wido of Ferrara, writing in the entourage of Archbishop Wibert of Ravenna, 
Henry IV’s antipope ‘Clement III’, declared that ‘the pre-eminent and most 
important question which all are unanimously asking themselves is: “what 
Christian ever caused so many wars and killed so many men?” ’ 4<5 Wido had 
no doubt of Gregory VI I’s sincerity: he knew that the pope was ‘attentive 

41 Gregory VII, liturgical text In die resurrectionis, ed. Morin, in Morin (1901), p. 179: a tempore 
quo teutonicis concessum est regimen nostrae aecclesiae’. Dereine (1961), pp. 108-18 attributes this 
liturgical text to Gregory, while denying his authorship of the accompanying rule. 

42 Sigebert, Apologia 2, MGH Libelli 11, p. 438: ‘Si enim ad principia redeas, quid pulchrius, quid chris- 
tianitati conducibilius, quam sacros ordines castitatis legibus subicere, promotiones ecclesiasticas, 
non pecuniae pacto sed vitae merito aestimare, iuvenis regis vitam et mores ad suam et subditorum 
utilitatem corrigere, episcopalem dignitatem ab omni saecularis servitii necessitate absolvere?’ On 
Gregorian methods: ‘non piis et ecclesiasticis ammonitionibus devocati sed tyrannicae violentiae 
impetu non parumper absterriti’. 

43 Sigebert, Epistola Leodicensium 2, MGH Libelli 11, p. 453: ‘distrinxit gladios laicorum in cervices 

44 Henry IV, Epistola 13, ed. Erdmann (1937) in MGH Deutsches Mittelalter 1, pp. 17—18: ‘non pastoris 
cura sed invasoris violentia apostolicf sedis presidentem’. The emphasis in the polemical literature 
on Gregory VII as a ‘Kriegsmann’ was first studied by Erdmann (1935), pp. 212-49. 

45 Letter of the Worms synod to Hildebrand (1076), MGH Deutsches Mittelalter 1, p. 66 : ‘signifer 
scismatis’; Decree of the Brixen synod (1080), ibid. , p. 71: ‘qui ecclesiasticum subvertit ordinem, qui 
cristiani imperii perturbavit regimen . . . qui inter Concordes seminavit disco rdiam’. 

46 Wido of Ferrara, Descismate Hildebrandi 1.15, MGH Libelli 1, p. 545: ‘illud, quod praecipuum videtur 
et maximum, in quo sibi solent omnes applaudere dicentes: ‘Quis umquam christianorum tot bella 

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Reform and the church, 1073— 1122 279 

to fasts, occupied in prayers, devoted to study and had made his body the 
temple of Christ’. Wido had lived in Rome during the early years of Gregory’s 
pontificate; he had seen the pope suffused with tears as he celebrated mass 
each day and noted how he rejected the delicacies of the papal table and ate 
only wild herbs, beans and pulses, living a monastic life amidst the splendour 
and clamour of the papal court. Like Sigebert of Gembloux, Wido of Ferrara 
saw the need to ‘confound simoniacal heresy and ‘restrain sacrilegious and 
adulterous priests with the sword of the spirit’. It was not Gregory’s reforming 
aims but his methods - notably the lay boycott of guilty priests - which had 
brought disorder to the church. ‘He was a schismatic in that he taught that 
the sacraments of unworthy ministers and of excommunicates were polluted, 
commanded that they were not to be received and indeed forbade them to 
be called sacraments; in which he differed entirely from the rules of the holy 
Fathers.’ 47 The most vituperative of Gregory VII’s critics, Bishop Benzo of Alba, 
was also devoted to the eradication of simony and clerical marriage. Benzo is 
usually regarded merely as a scurrilous pamphleteer and fulsome panegyrist of 
the emperor and his antipope; but the advice which he addressed to Henry 
IV in his polemics included exhortations to reform. He urged the emperor to 
be ‘very discerning in creating bishops’, ‘lest perhaps you draw disgrace upon 
yourself from the vice of a new incumbent: let his life, morals and condition 
first be inquired into’. Henry must take care not to mistake a Cupid for an angel 
or to elevate a Priapus to episcopal office. 48 Benzo’s assumption that bishops 
should be appointed by the emperor was, of course, the target of the most 
innovatory Gregorian reform legislation, the decrees against lay investiture; 
but Benzo undoubtedly shared his opponents’ preoccupation with the purity 
of the episcopate. 

The attempt to reconcile the emperor’s authority in ecclesiastical affairs with 
the eradication of abuses from the church is especially apparent in the career of 
Wibert of Ravenna, who, after his election as antipope in the synod of Brixen, 

movit, tot homines interemit?’ ‘On Wido of Ferrara see Fliche (1916) and (1918). On Wido’s work 
as evidence of the views of Wibert of Ravenna see most recently Jordan (1954), pp. 159-64; Krause 
(i960), p. 200. 

47 Wido, Descismate 1.2, p. 534: ‘Ieiuniis intentus, orationibus occupatus, legendi studiis deditus, corpus 
suum templum fecerat Christi.’ Gregory’s reforms (p. 535): ‘symoniacam heresim viva voce confiin- 
dere . . . sacrilegos et adulteros sacerdotes gladio spiritus . . . confutare’. 11, p. 567: ‘In eo etiam scis- 
maticus extitit, quod indignorum ministrorum et excommunicatorum sacramenta polluta docuit, 
non recipienda mandavit, nec sacramenta quidem dici debere perhibuit, in quibus a sanctorum 
patrum regulis omnino dissensit.’ 

48 Benzo, Ad Heinricum imperatorem v.3, MGH SS xi, pp. 650-1: ‘In episcopis creandis si es discretis- 
simus ... Sit discreta, rex o bone, manus impositio, / Ne fortasse labem trahas ex tyronis vicio, / Vita 
prius requiratur, mores et conditio . . . Nec pro Iovis ave summas nocturnum aligerum, / Nec con- 
stituas Priapum in numero syderum.’ On Benzo see Schramm (1962), pp. 258-74; Fliche (1924-37), 
hi, pp. 216-49; Ullmann (1970), pp. 387-93; Koch (1972), pp. 115-18. 

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28 o 


became the symbol of the imperial church’s opposition to Gregory VII. Wibert 
appears in the writings of pro-Gregorian polemicists as heresiarch, apostate, 
the new Simon Magus’, the beast with seven heads and ten horns (Revela- 
tion 13:1-4), ‘mad Wibert’ ( Guibertus demens, with a play on his pontifical 
name, Clemens), ‘a wicked bishop [who] preaches and orders fornication and 
simony’. 49 In fact he was a zealous opponent of simony and clerical marriage 
and shared at least one other reforming preoccupation of the Gregorian party. 
In his concern for ‘the restoration of the offices of the holy church of God’ 
as archbishop of Ravenna, Wibert promoted the vita communis, the ‘common 
life’ of regular canons. 50 The ideal of the regular canonical life for the secular 
clergy was championed by many of the principal figures of the papal reform 
movement, notably Peter Damian, Gregory VII and the latter’s confidant and 
legate in Lombardy, the canonist Bishop Anselm II of Lucca. 51 While Wibert 
was successful in encouraging some members of the Ravennese clergy to vol- 
unteer for the ‘common life’, the more radical experiments of his enemies 
ended in violent resistance and failure. Gregory VII’s attempt to impose the 
‘common life’ on the whole Roman clergy was unavailing: only in the pontif- 
icate of Calixtus II (1121) were regular canons permanently established in the 
Lateran. 52 When Anselm of Lucca attempted to enforce the ‘common life’ in 
his cathedral chapter, he was driven out of his diocese. 53 Anselm was the author 
of the most important Gregorian refutation of Wibert’s claim to be the lawful 
pope, the Book against Wibert and His Followers, in which he characterised 
‘Clement III’ as the leader of the party of the simoniacs. 54 Wibert’s response 
to such a charge is found in the encyclical in which he published the decrees 
of his synod of 1091. ‘Following the documents of the holy Fathers’, the synod 
had ‘attacked the simoniacs, who make the Church of God a den of thieves’ 
(Matthew 21:13) and strove to ‘lop off with the sword of St Peter the head of that 
heresy, which had come to life again after being cut off so many times by the 
holy Fathers’. The Wibertine synod believed, therefore, like the Gregorians, 
that simony was a heresy; and the synod also admonished the clergy ‘to preserve 

49 Wibert as heresiarch: Bernold of Constance, Chronicon, 1080, MGH SS v, p. 436; Urban II, Council 
of Piacenza (1095), c. 8, MGH Constitutiones 1, p. 562; Urban II, JL 5393, PL 151, col. 297c; Godfrey 
ofVendome, Epistolae 1.8, PL 157, col. 47c; as apostate: Bernold, Chronicon , 1081, 1082, p. 437; ‘novo 
Simone mago’: Deusdedit, Libellus contra invasores et symoniacos 11.11, MGH Libelli 11, p. 329; as 
beast: Bonizo of Sutri, Liber ad amicum ix, MGH Libelli 1, p. 613. Cf. Pseudo-Haimo, Explanatio in 
PsalmumXC, PL 116, col. 510B: ‘si aliquis nefandus episcopus praedicaret et praeciperet fornicationem 
vel simoniam, sicut Guibertus demens’. 

50 Wibert of Ravenna, Diploma of 8 May 1081, cited by Ziese (1982), pp. 70-3: ‘restaurationem 
officiorum sanctae Dei Ecclesiae’. 

51 Dereine (1946), pp. 365-406 and (1953), pp. 353-405. 

52 Schmidt (1972), pp. 219-21. 53 Kittel (1931). 

54 Anselm of Lucca, Liber contra Wibertum et sequaces eius, MGH Libelli 1, p. 526. 

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Reform and the church, 1073— 1122 


the purity of chastity, without which, as the apostle bears witness, they can- 
not please God’. Wibert’s reform programme of 1091 differed from that of his 
rival, Urban II, in two significant respects. First, Wibert refused to include the 
lay investiture of bishops in his definition of simony. Second, while champi- 
oning the ideal of clerical chastity, Wibert’s synod of 1091 excommunicated 
those who (obeying the command of Gregory VII) ‘reject the masses of sinful 
priests’. 55 

For Wibert, as for his adherents Wido of Ferrara and Sigebert of Gembloux, 
the hallmark of the Gregorian reform was violence: ‘how great is the bloodshed 
perpetrated in the Italian and German kingdom occasioned by their preach- 
ing!’ 56 The reason why the Gregorian reform had deteriorated into assaults 
on simoniac and married clergy and had provoked civil war in the empire was 
that the reformers had abandoned the partnership with the emperor which had 
characterised the first decade of the papal reform movement (1046-56). The 
necessity of such a partnership is the theme of Sigebert ’s polemic on behalf of 
the church of LRge (1103). ‘Who can separate the cause of the kingship from 
the cause of the priesthood? Unless the peace of God . . . joins kingship and 
priesthood in the one cornerstone of harmony, the building of the church will 
totter on the foundation of faith.’ Without the sanction of imperial power to 
enforce their reform programme, the Gregorians had been obliged to resort 
to random acts of violence, usurping the authority of the divinely ordained 
emperor. Yet the lessons of history showed that even Rome herself could only 
be effectively reformed by imperial intervention. Let the Gregorian party ‘con- 
sider how popes obtained the Roman see from the time of St Silvester to that 
of Hildebrand; how many unheard-of crimes were committed out of ambi- 
tion for that see and how they were checked by kings and emperors, and false 
popes condemned and deposed. Imperial might was worth more there than 
the excommunications of Hildebrand, Odo [Urban II] and Paschal [II]’. 57 
Sigebert’s models of correct papal conduct were Gregory I, who respected the 

55 Wibert of Ravenna [‘Clement III’] , Decretum, MGH Libelli i, pp. 625— 6: ‘placuit sancto conventui, ut 
in symoniacos, qui ecclesiam Dei latronum speluncam faciunt . . . inveheremur et redivivum caput 
illius hereseos, totiens a sanctis patribus abscissum, gladio beati Petri amputaremus’; ‘ministros 
altaris . . . mundiciam castitatis, sine qua teste apostolo placere Deo non possunt, irreprehensibiliter 
custodire commoneatis’. ‘Hi vero, qui missas peccatorum sacerdotum respuunt . . . communione 
sanctae ecclesiae usque ad emendationem priventur.’ On the date of Wibert s synod see Ziese (1982), 
pp. 191— 2 n. 11. For Urban Us legislation on these themes see his synod of Melfi (1089), c. 2, 3, 12, 
ed. Mansi, 20, cols. 723-4. 

56 Wibert, Decretum, p. 625: ‘Quanta enim humani sanguinis effusiones in Ytalico et Teutonico regno 
occasione predicationis eorum factae sint.’ 

57 Sigebert, Epistola Leodicensium 11, p. 462: ‘Quis poterit discernere causam regni a causa sacerdotii? 
Nisi pax Dei . . . copulet regnum et sacerdotium uno angulari lapide concordiae, vacillabit structura 
ecclesiae super fidei fundamentum.’ Ibid., 8, pp. 459-60: ‘recolligat quomodo a beato Silvestro usque 
ad Hildebrandum sedem Romanam papae obtinuerint; et quot et quanta inaudita ex ambitione illius 

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authority of Emperor Maurice, and Leo IX, who cooperated in the reform 
of the church with his kinsman, Emperor Henry III. 58 This was the model 
imitated by Wibert of Ravenna who, having risen to prominence by faithful 
service to the imperial court and the favour of Empress Agnes (the widow 
of Henry III), devoted himself as pope to cooperation with Henry IV. He 
provided the emperor with the means to conduct his Italian campaigns, used 
his spiritual authority to defend the emperor against rebels and lawbreakers 
and issued joint papal-imperial privileges of protection for religious founda- 
tions . 59 

Such harmonious cooperation could only be assured, so the adherents of 
Henry IV and the antipope believed, if the emperor played the foremost role 
in the election of the pope, as of the imperial episcopate. ‘The pope is conse- 
crated at the command of Caesar’, wrote Benzo of Alba, who also reminded 
the bishops that they were ‘planted in the house of the Lord by the hands of the 
king’. It was the king’s duty to ‘choose bishops whose teaching would recall the 
languid world to salvation and rid the church of pestilential disease ’. 60 Defend- 
ers of the status quo emphasised the antiquity of the emperor’s rights and the 
fact that holy men had recognised them for centuries. ‘We read in the Life of 
St Gregory [I] that when he had been elected to the government of the apostolic 
see and was reluctant, the Romans sought the consent of Emperor Maurice 
and raised the elect through his means to the papal see . . . And although the 
same thing is also read in many other places, that holy men were raised to 
the episcopate by kings, lo! suddenly in the time of the elder Henry [IV] the 
Roman pope . . . Gregory VII forbade anyone to be elected or appointed by 
him .’ 61 Sigebert of Gembloux likewise underlined the example of ‘the holy 
and reverend bishops who rendered to Caesar what was Caesar’s and to God 

sedis perpetrata sint; et quomodo per reges et inperatores diffinita sint et pseudopapae dampnati 
et abdicati sint. Et ibi plus valuit virtus imperialis, quam excommunicatio Hildebrandi, Odardi, 

58 Ibid., 10, 13, pp. 461-2, 463; Sigebert, Catalogus 41, 150, ed. Witte (1974), pp. 64-5, 93-5. 

59 Ziese (1982), pp. 13—19, 26—30 (career in the imperial government); 74—6, 81, 87—8, 184, 190, 211 (Henry 
IV’s Italian expeditions); 193-4, 260-1 (spiritual support for Henry IV); 207-9, 232-3 (privileges). 

60 Benzo, AdHeinricum imperatorem vi.6, MGH SS xi, p. 666: ‘Caesare praecipiente papa benedicitur’; 
iv, prologus, p. 634: ‘In domo etenim Domini estis plantati manibus regis’; vn.2, p. 671: ‘eligat 
pontifices, quorum doctrina revocetur ad salutem languidus orbis, evulsis ab aecclesia pestilentiae 

61 Hermann of Tournai, Liber de restauratione monasterii sancti Martini Tornacensis 83, MGH SS 
xiv, p. 314: ‘In Vita beati Gregorii legitur, quod, cum ad apostolice sedis regimen fuisset electus 
et reluctaretur, Romani assensum Mauricii imperatoris petierunt et per eum in sede pontificali 

electum levaverunt Cumque idem etiam multis aliis in locis legatur, sanctos scilicet viros a 

regibus ad pontificatum fuisse promotos, ecce subito Henrici senioris imperatoris temporibus papa 
Romanus . . . Gregorius septimus prohibet, ne quisquam ab eo eligatur vel promoveatur.’ On this 
source see Wattenbach and Holtzmann, ed. Schmale (1967), n, p. 754. 

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Reform and the church, 1073— 1122 


what was God s’ (Matthew 22:21). 61 Sigebert believed (as we have already seen) 
that such ‘holy and reverend bishops’ flourished in the Ottonian age. Similarly 
Benzo of Alba, panegyrist of ‘Charles [the Great] and three Ottos’, especially 
commended to Henry IV the model of Emperor Otto III, who ‘restored the 
monarchy of the whole empire’, thanks to the support of the bishops. The life- 
time of these bishops ‘witnessed a golden age’, when ‘there was no disturbance 
anywhere, reason reigned everywhere; the earth enjoyed tranquillity like the 
heavens; the clergy showed themselves as pious as the choirs of angels’. 3 The 
historian Lampert of Hersfeld located the golden age of church and empire in 
the reign of Charlemagne, the protector and benefactor of his abbey. Lampert 
believed that the Carolingian age had temporarily been restored by Henry III, 
who was ‘like another Charles’ in his virtues and achievements. 64 The anony- 
mous monk of Hersfeld who composed the most learned extant defence of 
Wibert of Ravenna (1091-93) likewise celebrated the achievements of Charle- 
magne as defender of the papacy and of his father, Pippin III, whose purpose 
had been ‘to reform the kingdom of the Franks to its former dignity’. 65 Both 
the Carolingian and the Ottonian ages were evoked in the earliest justifications 
of the imperial right of investiture: the forged investiture privileges of Pope 
Adrian I for Charlemagne and Pope Leo VIII for Otto I which were to play so 
influential a role in the debate about the emperor’s rights over the church. 66 
The defence of the claims of Henry IV and Henry V was inspired by a vision 
of the early middle ages in which ‘kings and emperors followed the example of 
Charlemagne by devoutly striving to protect the Roman church and the other 
churches in the fear of God and love of St Peter and practised the investiture 
of bishops’. 67 

61 Sigebert, Epistola Leodicensium 7, p. 459: sub hac consuetudine migraverunt a seculo sancti et 
reverentes episcopi, reddentes caesari que erant cesaris et Deo quae erant Dei’. 

63 Benzo, Ad Heinricum imperatorem 111.6, p. 624: ‘reparavit monarchiam tocius imperii’; iv.6, p. 642: 
Vita presulum aureum vidit seculum . . . Nusquam erat turbatio, totum regebat ratio, /Quiescebant 
terrestria, veluti coelestia, /Devote stabant clerici, ut chori angelici.’ 

64 Lampert of Hersfeld, Vita Lulli 14, MGH SRG xxxvm, p. 326; Lampert, Libellus de institutione 
Herveldensis ecclesiae, ibid., p. 351: Henry III 'velut alter Karolus’. See Struve (1969), pp. 44-51; 
(1970), p. 34. 

V Liber de unitate ecclesiae conservanda 1.2, MGH Libelli 11, p. 186: ’reformate regnum Francorum in 
pristinae dignitatis statum’; 11.15, P- 22 9 (Charlemagne). The Anonymous was responding to the 
Gregorian interpretation of Carolingian history: see Affeldt (1969). See also Zafarana (1966a), p. 

66 The recent edition by C. Marti, Die fakchen Lnvestiturprivilegien, MGH Fontes iuris germanici 
antiqui xm (1986), especially pp. 9-15, 52-95, 125-30, deals fully with the debate on the character 
and influence of these forgeries, the Hadrianmn, Privilegium minus Leonis VIII, Cessio donationum 
and Privilegium maius Leonis VIII. 

67 Tractatus de investitura episcoporum, MGH Libelli 11, pp. 498-9, and ed. Krimm-Beumann (1977), p. 
69: ‘reges et imperatores, succedentes exemplo Karoli magni defensionem Roman? ecclesi? et aliarum 

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The polemics of the Gregorian papacy hark back to an idealised past very 
different in character from that of the Wibertine and Henrician polemicists. 
It was a past in which ‘the most Christian emperors . . . did not wish to claim 
for themselves any jurisdiction or lordship over the clergy and the property 
of the churches’. 6S This was the golden age which the reform papacy wished 
to restore: an age beginning with the conversion of the Roman empire in the 
reign of Constantine I and the pontificate of Sylvester I; an age which fell into 
decline after the sixth century (although the emperors Charlemagne and Louis 
the Pious strove to restore it). It was the age which included the pontificates of 
Leo I and Gregory I, the great popes whose memory was evoked in the papal 
names of two of the leading figures of the reform papacy, Leo IX and Gregory 
VII. When, for example, Gregory VII wished to define Catholic orthodoxy, he 
spoke of ‘the faith of the four [ecumenical] councils, which was approved by the 
holy Fathers and confirmed by the apostolic authority of the Roman pontiffs 
Sylvester, Leo and others’, ‘not the least of whom [was] the most blessed Pope 
Gregory, the excellent doctor ’. 69 In the letters of Gregory VII and the writings 
of his adherents there is a constant appeal to the authority of Gregory I (Leo I 
being the second most frequently quoted pope). Gregory VII’s reiterated claim 
to base his reforms on the teachings of ‘St Gregory, the holy and most humble 
doctor’ was particularly resented by his critics: ‘you have laid parricidal hands 
on the most blessed Gregory, who withdraws far from your understanding, 
and you have done as much violence to him as you could ’. 70 What critics 
deplored in the Hildebrandine version of Gregory I’s teaching was the claim 
that ‘Pope Gregory decreed that kings who presumed to violate the decrees of 
the apostolic see should lose their offices .’ 71 Opponents of the reform papacy 
could easily demonstrate that the saint ‘neither resisted the [secular] powers 
nor taught that they were to be resisted ’. 72 

ecclesiarum timore Dei et caritate sancti Petri devote prosecuti sunt, investituras episcoporum 

68 Deusdedit, Libellus contra invasores et symoniacos 1.2, MGH Libelli 11, p. 302: ‘christianissimi 
imperatores ... in clero et in rebus ecclesiarum nullum sibi iudicium vel dominium vendicare 

69 Gregory VII, Registrum viii.i, p. 511: ‘fidem scilicet IIII conciliorum, qu? a sanctis patribus compro- 
bata a Romanis pontificibus Silvestro Leone aliisque apostolica sunt auctoritate firmata. Inter quos 
nichilominus beatissimus Gregorius papa doctor egregius.’ 

70 Cardinalium schismaticorum scripta in, MGH Libelli 11, p. 392: ‘beatissimo Gregorio, longe ab 
intellectu tuo recedenti, manus parricidales iniecisti et, quantum in te fuit, ei vim fecisti’. Cf. 
Registrum iv.23, p. 336: ‘beams Gregorius doctor sanctus et humillimus’; vi.2, viii.i, 21, pp. 393, 511, 

71 Registrum vm.21, p. 550: ‘Beams quoque Gregorius papa reges a sua dignitate cadere statuit, qui 
apostolic? sedis decreta violare presumpserint.’ Cf. Registrum iv.2, p. 294. 

72 Liber de unitate ecclesiae conservanda 1.11, p. 199: ‘cum nihil tale in scriptis illius eximii doctoris 
Gregorii adhuc legerimus . . . qui non resistebat nec resistendum docebat potestatibus’. Cf. Peter 

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Reform and the church, 1073— 1122 


While Gregory VIIs conception of Gregory I was that of a pope who threat- 
ened to depose secular rulers, his conception of Constantine I was of an emperor 
who deferred to the church. ‘Emperor Constantine the Great, the lord of all the 
kings and princes of almost the whole world ... in the holy synod of Nicaea, 
seated in the lowest place after all the bishops, did not presume to pronounce 
judgement on them; he called them gods, who must not be subject to his 
jurisdiction and he judged that he himself should depend on their authority.’ 
Urban II urged King Alfonso VT of Leon-Castile to ‘remember the religious 
prince Constantine, who would not judge priests, considering it unworthy that 
gods should be judged by men’. 73 The most detailed exposition of Gregorian 
historiography is Bonizo of Sutri’s history of the church, the Liber ad amicum 
(1085), with its vigorous celebration of the ‘golden age’. 

From the reign of the pious Constantine until the cruel reigns of the Lombards those 
princes of the Roman empire who ruled according to the fear of God and the advice of 
the bishops and who above all obeyed the Roman pontiff - protecting the churches, 
esteeming the clerks and honouring the priests - as long as they lived, governed the 
commonwealth in great peace and exchanged death for eternal life. 

The virtuous emperors, Constantine, Jovinian and Valentinian, ‘most obedient 
to the priests of God’, are sharply contrasted with the ‘disobedient’ secular 
rulers. Significantly Bonizo included in the latter category Benzo of Alba’s 
model emperor, Otto III. According to Bonzio’s inaccurate account, Otto III 
blinded and mutilated the intruder Pope John XVI, ‘which so displeased God 
and St Peter’ that within three months ‘the [emperor] hateful to God perished 
without viaticum’ and the Romans refused him burial. 74 

The virtuous emperors of the golden age not only obeyed the priesthood 
but also ‘endowed with the most magnificent gifts the churches built either 

Crassus, Defensio Heinrici IV regis 7, MGH Libelli 1, p. 449; Wenrich of Trier, Epistola 4, ibid., p. 
291. See Robinson (1978a), pp. 139-42. 

73 Registrum vm.21, p. 553: ‘Constantinus Magnus imperator, omnium regum et principum fere totius 
orbis dominus ... in sancta Nycena synodo post omnes episcopos ultimus residens nullam iudicii 
sententiam supra eos dare presumpsit, sed illos etiam deos vocans non suo debere subesse iudicio, 
verum se ad illorum pendere arbitrium iudicavit’. Cf. Registrum iv.2, p. 296. Urban II, JL 5367, PL 
151, col. 290B: ‘Memento religiosi principis Constantini, qui sacerdotum iudicia nec audire voluit, 
indignum iudicans deos ab hominibus iudicari.’ This anecdote was also cited by Bonizo of Sutri, 
Liber ad amicum 11, MGH Libelli 1, p. 574; Deusdedit, Libellus contra invasores et symoniacos, 
ibid. 11, pp. 350-1; Placidus of Nonantola, Liber de honore ecclesiae 90, ibid., n, p. 613. 

74 Bonizo, Liber ad amicum 11, p. 575: ‘Sed a pii Constantini [regno] usque ad Longobardorum crudelia 
regna, quiqui Romani imperii principes secundum Dei timorem et episcoporum consilia et pre- 
cipue sub Romano episcopo obedientes extitere fcclesias colendo, clericos diligendo, sacerdotes 
honorando, dum vixere, alta pace rem publicam gubernavere et mortem vita fterna commutavere.’ 
Otto Ill’s conduct: iv, pp. 582-3: ‘Quod factum in tantum Deo et beato Petro apostolorum principi 
displicuit, ut . . . Deo odibilis sine viatico vitam finivit.’ 

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by themselves or by others’. 75 Bonizo applauded the generosity of Constan- 
tine I, the greatest propagator of the name of Christ, the founder of the 
bountiful new Rome, the foremost builder of basilicas’. Bruno of Segni wrote 
that Constantine had carried stones on his own shoulders for the construc- 
tion of his basilicas. 76 We have already seen that the building and repairing 
of churches was regarded as an essential part of the programme of ecclesias- 
tical reform and renewal in the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries. The 
building operations of the reform papacy and some of its closest associates 
took the form of an ‘early Christian revival in architecture and art’: that is, 
the re-creation of the ecclesiastical architecture of the three centuries begin- 
ning with the reign of Constantine. 77 The ‘Gregorian reform’ was an attempt 
to restore not only the spirituality and standards of conduct of that golden 
age but also the material conditions and even the physical appearance of the 
churches. The first sign of this ‘early Christian revival’ is the architecture of the 
churches of S. Felicity and S. Lorenzo in Florence, built in the time of Bishop 
Gerard (1045-61), subsequently Pope Nicholas II. 78 When on 20 January 1060 
Nicholas II (who retained the office of bishop of Florence) dedicated the church 
of S. Lorenzo, the illustrious congregation included two reformers who were 
to be closely associated with the imitation of the architecture and art of the 
golden age: Archdeacon Hildebrand and Desiderius, abbot of Monte Cassino 
and cardinal priest of S. Cecilia (later Pope Victor III, 1086-7). 79 Archdea- 
con Hildebrand, acting as the administrator of the Roman abbey of S. Paolo 
fuori le Mura, in 1070 ordered from Constantinople a set of bronze doors 
for the abbey. Other Italian churches (Amalfi, Monte Cassino, St Michael in 
Monte S. Angelo) acquired Byzantine bronze doors in the later eleventh cen- 
tury as part of the attempt to recreate the appearance of an early Christian 
basilica. 80 

The projects of Abbot Desiderius of Monte Cassino for his abbey consti- 
tuted the most ambitious and influential example of this renovatio. Desiderius 
summoned from Constantinople ‘artists who were skilled in the art of lay- 
ing mosaics and pavements’ because ‘Latin mastery of these arts had lapsed 
for five hundred years and more’ - that is, since the end of the church’s 
golden age. In search of authentic relics of that age Desiderius went to Rome 

75 Deusdedit, Libellus contra invasores 1.2, p. 302: Vel a se vel ab aliis aedificatas ecclesias amplissimis 
donis ditaverunt’. 

76 Bonizo, Liber ad amicum 11, pp. 573—4: ‘Christi nominis maximus propagator, almf novf Romf 
fundator, basilicarum precipuus fabricator’. Bruno of Segni, In Isaiam, ed. Amelli (1897), 
p. 181. 

77 Kitzinger (1972), p. 98. 78 Paatz (1941); Horn (1943). 

79 Nicholas II, JL 4429, PL 143, cols. 1334D-1336C. 

80 Bloch (1986), 1, pp. 137-66, 487-94, and (1971), pp. 267-81. 

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Reform and the church, 1073— 1122 


and ‘spent a large sum of money on [ancient] columns, bases, epistyles and 
marbles of various colours in great numbers’. 81 The resultant basilica, com- 
pleted in 1071, influenced the architecture and decoration of churches in south- 
ern Italy (notably S. Angelo in Formis near Capua, S. Mennas and S. Agata 
de’ Goti in the province of Benevento and S. Vincenzo al Volturno) and also 
in Rome. 82 Cassinese influence has likewise been detected in the great abbey 
church built between 1088 and 1109 by Abbot Hugh I (‘the Great’), who had 
visited Monte Cassino in 1083. 83 The spirit of the ‘early Christian revival’ is 
equally apparent in the early twelfth-century Roman churches of S. Clemente, 
S. Maria in Trastevere, S. Nicola in Carcere and S. Maria in Cosmedin. In par- 
ticular their wall-paintings, carefully imitating fifth- and sixth-century mod- 
els, illustrate the antiquarianism - the ‘pedanterie archeologique’ S4 - expected 
of artists by their reforming patrons. The most striking example of the use 
of a wall-painting to convey reforming ideas was that placed in the apse of 
the St Nicholas chapel of the Lateran in the 1130s. Here the seven reform- 
ing popes of the period 1061-1124 appear in the company of the popes of 
the golden age on whom they sought to model themselves, Sylvester I, Leo 
I and Gregory I. The design is dominated by a representation of the corona- 
tion of the Virgin Mary, copied from an early medieval icon in S. Maria in 
Trastevere. 85 

The ‘early Christian revival in architecture and art’ is a reminder of how 
literally the reformers interpreted their task of restoring the age of ‘the most 
Christian emperors’. An equally important aspect of the ‘Gregorian reform’ 
was the restoration of the wealth of the church. According to Gregorian histo- 
riography, the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries were the age in which the church 
was at its wealthiest. After the cessation of the persecution of Christianity in the 
reign of Constantine ‘the multitude of the faithful began to endow the churches 
of God with a great abundance of possessions’. At first the laws of the Catholic 
emperors protected this property from the avarice of the laity; but when the 
Catholic emperors were no more, ecclesiastical property was at the mercy of 
simoniacs and secular authorities claiming the right of investiture. According 
to the canonist Cardinal Deusdedit, ecclesiastical reform meant ‘that the clerk 

Sl Chronica monasterii Casinensis 111.27, MGHSSxxxiv, p. 396: ‘Legatos interea Constantinopolim ad 
locandos artifices destinat peritos utique in arte musiaria et quadrataria . . . quoniam artium istarum 
ingenium a quingentis et ultra iam annis magistra Latinitas intermiserat.’ 111.26, p. 394: ‘larga manu 
pecunias oportune dispensans columnas, bases ac lilia nec non et diversorum colorum marmora 
abundanter coemit’. See Esch (1969), pp. 21-2. 

82 Bloch (1986), 1, pp. 49-51, 61-5, 231-4. 

83 Conant (1968), pp. 16, 73 n. 8; Conant and Willard (1971). 

84 Toubert (1970) (for the term ‘ped.iruerie archeologiqne’ see p. 105), and (1976). 

85 The painting was commissioned by Anacletus II and is known only from copies made in the early 
modern period: Ladner (1941), pp. 192-218: Walter (1971); Bloch (1986), 11, pp. 965-6 (and fig. 288). 

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must be nourished and honoured by secular men, not defamed or judged or 
persecuted’. The laity must provide the clergy with the necessities of life and 
the means to conduct Christian worship. 86 This was especially the duty of the 
king or emperor: as ‘head of the laymen’, wrote Gregory VII, he must ‘increase 
and defend the property of the churches’. 87 

The model of correct imperial conduct was once again Constantine I. The 
‘Donation of Constantine’ (the Constitutum Constantini, forged in the later 
eighth or early ninth century) had conferred on the Roman church, among 
various imperial rights, the territories usually known as ‘the Patrimony of 
St Peter’: that is, Roman Tuscany, Sabina, the county of Tivoli, the Roman 
Campagna and the Maritime Province. Gregory VII fought energetically to 
maintain control of the papal patrimony: ‘the faithful servant and careful 
steward of ecclesiastical property commanded all cities, villages, towns and 
castles to be defended, he arranged for all properties to be guarded and he 
strove to recover what had been lost or seized by violence’. 88 While Gregory 
VII sought to recover ( recuperare ) the lands granted by the ‘Donation’ in the 
neighbourhood of Rome, Urban II in 1091 cited other clauses of the spurious 
donation in an attempt to ‘regain’ the islands of Lipari and Corsica for the 
papacy. ‘It is certain that by the privilege of the religious Emperor Constantine 
all western islands - especially those situated near the coast of Italy - were 
surrendered to the proprietorship of St Peter and his successors.’ 89 A consistent 
objective of the reform papacy from its earliest days had been ‘to recover the 
patrimonies in the territories under [Byzantine] rule’: 90 that is, the rich papal 
possessions in southern Italy and Sicily which were confiscated by the Byzantine 
emperor during the iconoclastic dispute in the early eighth century. The reform 
papacy had not forgotten that (as Paschal II wrote in 1107) ‘before the invasion 
of the Saracens the island of Sicily was so closely linked with the Roman 
church that the Roman pontiffs always